FORT CARSON, Colo.— The wind finally calmed and Soldiers of Company D, 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, launched the first Shadow Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle from their dedicated airstrip, June 18.
“We’re doing readiness level progression for our operators to be able to support the brigade,” said Warrant Officer Evan Rattray, platoon leader, Company D, 299th BEB, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. “The troops need to maintain proficiency because it’s a fairly complex system that requires a lot of training to be able to continue to operate it at a proficient level.”
The training includes pre-flight preparations, launch, recovery, and flight time. Operators are required to demonstrate the basic tasks of controlling the aircraft and the mission tasks of calling for fire and route reconnaissance.
After many hours of simulated training led by instructors within the platoon, the Soldiers are getting their first chance to conduct live training.
“My job is to make sure my platoon is combat ready,” said Spc. Thomas Carpio, standardization operator, Company D, 299th BEB, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. “It’s very crucial when we deploy that we can provide 24-hour operations.”
The Shadow supports units on the ground by providing footage with its daytime and thermal camera.
“The commanders get a chance watch their guys on near real-time,” said Carpio. “It’s definitely a huge asset for them to be able to see what their troops are doing.”
Other capabilities of the Shadow include designating targets and extending ground communications.
“I love doing my job and knowing that I’m supporting other elements,” said Spc. Craig Herboth, unmanned aircraft systems repairer, Company D, 299th BEB, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. “Many times we’ve had Soldiers from units we’re supporting come to us and say thank you.”
Herboth added that his platoon assists units conducting humanitarian or wartime missions.
“I think it’s awesome actually getting to help people,” said Spc. Luke North, unmanned aerial vehicle operator, Company D, 299th BEB, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. “It’s really nice to feel like you’re contributing.”
The platoon plans to train for two weeks of every summer month at the new airstrip built solely for their use.