News: 10th Mountain Division Soldiers train with planes
By Pfc. Luke Allen
1st Brigade Combat Team PAO
UDAIRI RANGE, Kuwait --Soldiers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division recently trained on the Army's unmanned aerial vehicle at Udairi Range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
The training is designed to prepare the Fort Drum, N.Y., Soldiers for operations in Iraq.
These 1st BCT Soldiers perfected their flying skills, setting up in the middle of the desert at night and flying what resemble toy airplanes.
"It's funny how the Army pays us to fly model airplanes," joked Maj. Erick Sweet, 1st BCT Aviation Officer. "On a more serious note, we'll do whatever it takes to save lives and complete the mission."
Sweet said the benefit of having UAVs is that they can achieve the same objectives as Army aircraft without placing pilots" lives and more expensive equipment at risk.
These unmanned aerial vehicles won't replace traditional helicopters and planes for surveillance but complement them in situations where needed, Sweet said. "It's going to be very difficult for the terrorists to be successful at all, day or night, with our eyes constantly watching their every move."
The operators assigned to this mission range from junior-enlisted Soldiers to senior noncommissioned officers. Even though these Soldiers come from different military occupational specialties, ranging from food service specialists to forward observers, their mission in Iraq will be to operate this new technology when the need arises.
"How many other people get to fly in the Army as a junior-enlisted Soldier?" said Pfc. Keith Cahill of 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment.
Cahill said he's had experience with remote-controlled cars when he was younger but nothing like this. The systems are very portable and can be controlled on the ground from anywhere, such as a forward operating base or a moving tactical vehicle. The goal is to field the systems down to individual companies so that leaders at company and platoon levels can obtain situational awareness while reducing the risks associated on the current battlefield environment.
"Unmanned aerial vehicles have been around for over 20 years, but the technology has increased dramatically since then," said Jack Wallin from Systems Dynamics Inc., the contractors who manage the aircraft.
The 1st BCT was the first to receive this new type of equipment in 2003 in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Steven Smith of 2nd Bn., 22nd Inf. says this training is all about getting re-familiarized with the UAVs and testing live equipment prior to assuming their mission in Iraq.
"We've tested this type of equipment before while at Fort Drum, but it's important to conduct this kind of training in the desert because you just can't experience the same kind of conditions in garrison," Smith said. "These are the type of elements we'll be facing soon."