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    Enlisted Marines Reach New Heights with UAS Capabilities

    First Marine MQ-9 Reaper UAS Sensor Operators Graduate Air Force Course

    Photo By Capt. Pawel Puczko | SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Aug. 9, 2019) - The Commander of 558 Flying Training Squadron...... read more read more



    Story by 1st Lt. Pawel Puczko 

    Marine Aviation Training Support Group 22

    The first enlisted Marines to be assigned as sensor operators for the MQ-9 Reaper UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) graduated from the Air Force course aboard Randolph Air Force Base (AFB), Aug. 9.

    Marine LCpl Joshua Cuddy and LCpl Tyler Rodriguez, assigned to Marine Aviation Training Support Group (MATSG) 22, stood together with their class of 21 Air Force students as the 19-14 Basic Sensor Operator Course (BSOC) graduating class with the 558 Flying Training Squadron (FTS). Cuddy and Rodriguez are part of the Marine Corps future UAS Initiative.

    “The graduation of these two lance corporals is a small step in their training,” Marine Liaison to the 558 FTS Major Matthew Bailey said. “It’s probably lost on them how important it is, but this is a major milestone for the Marine Corps UAS community. This is something we have been waiting for a long time. It’s a milestone for moving the Marine Corps towards the group five initiative and will eventually be a major warfighting leap for how the MAGTF operates UAS.”

    The UAS community is divided into groups ranging from one to five. Group one and two cover small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) which typically weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 3,500 feet above the ground. Group three UAV’s have a significant increase in capabilities and can weigh up to 1320 pounds and fly up to 18,000 feet above sea level. In the past, group three UAS assets were the highest level that the Marine Corps possessed. Group four UAS capabilities expand to a UAV weighing more than 1320 pounds, flying up to 18,000 feet above sea level, and at any speed.

    The Marine Corps has been on a path to expand it’s UAS assets and enhance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. This brings the push for expanding into group five UAS’. Group five UAVs can weigh in above 1320 pounds, normally fly higher than 18,000 feet above sea level, and at any speed. These assets can stay in the air longer, with a much larger payload, and observe a much larger area.

    The solution to the Marine Corps’ need for a group five UAS was the MQ-9 Reaper. The Reaper has been employed by the Air Force for over a decade, taking over the roles previously assigned to manned combat aircraft. Rodriguez and Cuddy were put through the same training that has been producing Air Force Reaper sensor operators for the last few years. As a sensor operator, their job will be to support the pilot and provide real-time ISR to supported units on the ground.

    “I enjoyed my time here training with the Air Force, and everything that I have learned,” Cuddy said. “It seems like it has been a long journey to get here, but I know that I am ready to use what we learned here in the real world. I am looking forward to getting back to working with Marines and supporting boots on the ground.”

    Cuddy and Rodriguez completed 220 academic hours of training with 558 FTS and took part in 36 Predator Reaper Integrated Mission Environment (PRIME) simulators. Their final two weeks in the course they worked directly with a UAS pilot undergoing training with 558 FTS to bring together everything they learned and put it in a similar environment to their jobs when they finish training. They will both be moving on to train aboard Holloman Air Force base to get their final Reaper specific qualification.

    The Reaper was part of a large initiative to fill gaps in what was needed to support the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). It is not the final step to supporting the MAGTF in the future. The Reaper will serve as an invaluable asset to the troops on the ground once It becomes available to Marine fleet units. The future of the Marine Corps UAS initiative is in having a group five UAS asset which will also be capable of being deployed from an aircraft carrier. Training Marines on a group five UAS such as the Reaper was the ideal solution to provide ISR support that is currently needed as well as provide a steppingstone for the training that will be required for future UAS’.

    “My aspirations in the Marine Corps come from my parents,” Rodriguez said. “Both my parents are retired Marines, my dad was Gunnery Sergeant and my mom was a Staff Sergeant. They always told me to leave a place better than you found it. My goal is to stay in the Marine Corps as long as possible and leave it better then when I started, and I think this is a pretty good first step to doing that.”

    The 19-15 BSOC class will be graduating August 23 with two more Marines that will work with the MQ-9 Reaper. The 558 FTS will also be graduating Marine Reaper pilots in the upcoming weeks to bring Reapers one step closer to being integrated with the Fleet Marine Corps.



    Date Taken: 08.09.2019
    Date Posted: 08.12.2019 15:12
    Story ID: 335566
    Location: SAN ANTONIO, TX, US 
    Hometown: HIGHLAND, NY, US
    Hometown: ST. LOUIS, MO, US

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