News: The pilots of the unmanned aircraft
Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Dominique
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Conventional wisdom says the Air Force controls the sky, the Navy controls the water and the Army controls the land; however, Unmanned Aircraft Systems have revolutionized the way the Army fights.
The Army has empowered echelons at all levels with the unique capabilities that the UAS brings to the modern battlefield starting with the S2AS Puma All Environment UAS.
“The most important note for the Puma is it empowers your lower enlisted,” said Tarah Hollingsworth, an Aviation and Missile Command Logistics Assistance representative for the U.S. Army who specializes in UAS. “It empowers your privates, your specialists, your corporals to make those life critical decisions. It used to be in past wars and combat that they had to get contacted via radio when there was danger up ahead; this shortens that critical decision-making chain.”
Second Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, also known as the Lancers, have taken note of the unique capabilities of the Puma and have taken full advantage of the training offered here.
“[Second SBCT] is going into Operation Enduring Freedom with the most Raven [a small unit UAS] and Puma operators in the history of OEF combat,” said Hollingsworth. “Expect fantastic things from [2nd SBCT]. There are going to be so many heroes. With this additional capability, they will be able to bring more guys home.”
Although 2nd SBCT has not received an official order to deploy, they aren’t taking any chances when it comes to the lives of Lancers or the success of any mission they receive.
“It is definitely going to be an asset that we are going to be using more often,” said Sgt. Christopher Harris, the UAS operations non-commissioned officer in charge with B Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SBCT, 2nd ID. “It does save lives. It’s a preventive tool. It’s a recon tool to get ahead of our troops to scout the neighborhoods we’re headed into and prevent as many casualties as possible.”
Besides saving the lives of soldiers, the Puma gives the Army and 2nd SBCT the capability of tracking high value targets and disrupting any terror networks that are operating in the area.
“The ultimate goal is intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance; basically, it’s to wear the enemy out,” said Hollingsworth. “We can stay on target for hours and hours, and they can lead us to more bad guys, making it more and more unfair.”
The Puma is critical to this end because of the speed in which it can be put into operation and the teams that man it.
“The Puma and Raven are particularly important because they’re for the guys who go and kick down the doors,” said Hollingsworth. “It can be launched in five to ten minutes at their discretion.”
According to Hollingsworth, the intent of the Puma is to arm soldiers conducting the combat patrols with the most up-to-date intelligence on the ground to complete the mission and determine whether it’s safe to go forward.
Harris, who operated the Puma in Afghanistan, has seen firsthand what its capabilities are.
“I was on the initial fielding of the Puma when it was first brought in about three years ago when I was in Afghanistan," said Harris. “We were able to use it on all kinds of patrols, whether it be presence patrols, recon or anything of that sort. I utilized it two times for a call for fire; it’s very accurate for that.”
The UAS has truly changed the way the U.S. Army fights, and if Harris and his experiences in Afghanistan are a precursor to what 2nd SBCT will bring to the fight, the UAS is surely here to stay.