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    Eyes in the Sky

    UAS Landing

    Photo By Sgt. Jordan Trent | Det. 1, D Co., 177 BEB, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team lands the RQ-7B Shadow UAS...... read more read more

    NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    04.16.2019

    Story by Sgt. Jordan Trent 

    48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

    NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – 48th Brigade Soldiers are on a mission in eastern Afghanistan at a desolate military outpost in a remote location far from any major sign of civilization except scattered Afghan National Army checkpoints in the distance and cart trails that lead even further to nowhere. Echoing off the crumbled slate rock of the mountain side and bouncing off the vast expanse of land beyond, the Soldiers can hear the familiar whirring of a small aircraft that signified the watchful eye of the main command group and one could feel the sense of relief and the feeling of control the sound brought to the situation. Sometimes it is referred to as “eyes in the sky” by those Soldiers on the ground and the commanders watching, but to Det. 1, D Co., 177 Brigade Engineer Battalion from the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat team currently deployed to Afghanistan, it is the RQ-7B Shadow Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and it provides visibility and security during operations that can paint an invaluable picture for the commander.
    “The major missions that we do here is provide force protection for US and Afghan Military personnel in TAAC-East (Train, Advise, Assist Command – East) and fly to advise missions,” said 1st Lt. Robert Gartner, Commander of the UAS platoon. “That’s probably one of the coolest ones because the troops can see us and we can see them, so that’s a pretty good feeling knowing we can provide that sense of security for those guys on the ground.”
    The UAS platoon operates 24-hours a day, 7-days a week to provide over-watch for TAAC-East, said Gartner. The platoon works 12-hour shifts and coordinates together to make sure they are all getting their crew-rest time, which is a requirement for operators flying both manned and un-manned aircraft.
    In order to keep this operation tempo, it requires a robust maintenance crew, operators who understand the mission on the ground and leaders who can manage both teams to complete the mission over an extended period of time.
    “Every single time you launch, you have to inspect the aircraft,” said Spc. Fernando Marzan, a 15E UAS Maintainer with the UAS platoon. “You have to make sure nothing is loose and all the electronic connectors are fine. Even if you aren’t flying, there are still certain things you have to do to make sure it’s maintained. The work is constant.”
    Marzan, a Charleston, South Carolina Native, enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard 3-years ago and he maintains electronics for the Boeing 787 aircraft on the civilian side when he’s not serving in the Georgia Guard. Marzan said he brings knowledge from his civilian job to the group but has learned a lot from his teammates who some have been working on these aircraft for over 10 years.
    “We fly pretty much every single day,” said Marzan. “Unless something gets in the way, we’re going to put one in the air. Even if one is already in the air, we’re going to get another one ready so when it lands we can get another one up in as short of a time as possible. The big thing here is you want to have eyes in the sky somewhere at all times.”
    Maintenance is a constant job but so is flying the UAS.
    The UAS crew provides a critical aspect of mission planning with their ability to collect video footage that can be used by commanders and intelligence groups to plan and make decisions, said Gartner.
    “It’s mostly collecting intelligence over a period of some days in a certain area, and based on what the guys have been seeing from our videos they can take that intelligence and do what they need to do,” said Sgt. Marc Hersey, a 15W UAS Operator with the 48th IBCT. “As long as the people we are supporting know what we are capable of and what they should task us to do, we absolutely see our effect and impact on a lot of missions.”
    Hersey is a Haboken, Georgia native on his second deployment to Afghanistan and has spent 10-years in aviation with the Georgia Guard as a UAS Operator and Maintainer.
    The training to be a UAS Operator is between 7 to 9 months long but is rewarding, said Hersey.
    “What we’re doing in the states, practicing constantly, is actually being used here,” said Spc. Tyler Groves, another 15W UAS Operator with the UAS platoon. Groves is a member of the Florida National Guard and student at the University of Florida who is attached to the 48th IBCT for this deployment to Afghanistan. “Sometimes they’ll come tell us exactly what our footage was able to help accomplish and what the pictures we took were able to help. It’s cool to know whoever is out there calling the shots is using our work.”
    The Volunteer Soldiers of the UAS platoon will continue to manage 24-hour operations throughout their deployment all the way until they have relief in place to continue the mission of keeping eyes in the sky over TAAC-East.
    “We got here in January and we’ve already logged over 1,000 flight hours and whenever we’re flying we’re supporting combat operations” said Gartner. “I think that speaks a lot to the guys and how resilient they are. We’ve got a good group and we will make it happen for the rest of the tour.”
    -30-

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.16.2019
    Date Posted: 04.16.2019 07:02
    Story ID: 318251
    Location: NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AF 
    Hometown: ATLANTA, GA, US
    Hometown: FLORIDA CITY, FL, US
    Hometown: HOBOKEN, GA, US
    Hometown: MARIETTA, GA, US

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