By Army 2nd Lt. Monika Comeaux
173rd Brigade Support Battalion
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan—Soldiers conducted training on the Raven Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in Nangarhar province, Oct. 5-15.
The troops came from several locations and with different backgrounds, but they all had one thing in common: their eagerness to learn about a piece of equipment which can make their jobs easier by providing real time footage or still images of the battlefield.
"It is a great tool," said Spc. Sean M. Noel, a 21-year-old infantryman from Company C, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. "Before we go out to hit an objective, we can look at [the imaging.] To have this ability, it saves lives basically. We know what we are going up against."
The class consisted of both classroom time and time spent outdoors flying the UAV.
"In the morning time we try to do classroom, where we do 'death by PowerPoint'," said Army Cpl. Erick J. Rodas, the 173rd Airborne Brigade master trainer for the Raven UAV. "I try to liven it up by making after lunch strictly field site."
He said he was not overly concerned if his students knew the exact weight or the manufacturer for the Raven; what he was more concerned about is that they can properly launch, operate and land the UAV.
Rodas is a light-wheel vehicle mechanic by trade. He was chosen to become the brigade master trainer because he did so well when he attended a training course on the Raven at Fort Benning, Ga.
"When I was in Benning, I was the only student who earned what they call the 'Rock Star Award'. I got 100 percent on all of my exams. I showed proficiency and never failed a launch," explained the 22-year-old proudly.
It is a funny twist of fate that Rodas at one time was actually in a rock band. That is where he gets his confidence for standing up in front of the class and teaching students who are at times twice his age.
Army Pfc. Andrew W. Powers, a military policeman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, found the instructor and the class very informative.
"He is a great teacher," said Powers. "He gave us a lot of hands-on instruction, which is good for me, I am a hands-on learner."
Powers thinks the Raven is a very helpful tool for his unit, since they go out on a lot of overnight missions, where visibility is very limited.
Both Powers and Noel expressed great enthusiasm for flying as well.
"I have always been interested in flying, Powers said. "It is one baby step closer to it."
Noel was selected to attend this class based on scores he attained on a computer game he frequently plays back at his FOB with fellow Soldiers.
"I am supposedly one of the best guys who can fly this combat flight simulator game and I think that is why [his command] chose me," he said smiling.
"I would encourage anybody to get out there and learn as much as they can about the UAV because that is the future of the Army," Noel added.
"Technology is growing. I encourage anybody to go out there and learn a little bit, outside of their own [Military Occupational Specialty]. The future is upon us and everything isn't about shooting guns any more."
This work, TF Bayonet Soldiers train with Ravens, by CPT Monika Comeaux, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.