By Cpl. Tyler Barstow
1st Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs
AT-TAQADDUM, Iraq - The Marine Corps has launched a new combatant in the war on terror. Weighing in at five pounds, this new fighter's stealthy nature is the key to garnering surveillance and information, dutifully putting itself in the line of fire to protect Marines on the ground.
The new combatant is a hybrid combining the stealth and boldness of a Marine with the most elite and up-to-date aerial surveillance system. It is the Raven B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
"The primary mission of the Small Unmanned Aerial System is to provide reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition; day and night imagery to enhance situational awareness," explained Capt. James E. Lee, the Small Unmanned Aerial System's training officer with Marine Corps Systems Command at Camp Taqaddum.
Providing this situational awareness gives the Marines on the ground an eye in the sky. Whether it's day or night, the Raven B can look down on anything, providing the situational awareness needed.
The Raven B is replacing the Dragon Eye system. The new system is lighter, faster and has better picture quality in the video and images it captures. It's also easier to launch.
"The old system was launched with a bungee cord, the Raven B is hand launchable which makes it much easier to get the plane airborne," said Lee, from Greenville, Ala. Through the courses he taught, he noticed that launching it was one of the most difficult parts.
This machine's capabilities are being shared by all units that go through the new course in Iraq to help keep them one step ahead of the enemy.
"It pretty much runs itself," said Lance Cpl. Devin B. Nettles, a pallet rider with material distribution center, Supply Company, 1st Supply Battalion (-) (REIN), 1st MLG, who attended the course.
The course set up at Camp Taqaddum has been modified from the longer course taught at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.
"We don't have much time with (the students) because as soon as we're done with them, they're out using the systems," said Staff Sgt. Richard S. Reyna, a Smaller Unit Remote Scouting System instructor with Marine Corps Systems Command, about the high operational tempo faced in Iraq.
The condensed course here is simple, but effective. Marines receive a hands-on class with the machine, getting to know it inside and out, followed by an actual flight mission.
"It's very rewarding," said Reyna, from La Habra, Calif., about teaching the Marines. "After the first day, they say 'this is it, this will work.'"
The students also noticed the machine's potential for their own safety.
"It does save lives when you think about it," said Cpl. Ray Vizcaino, a general account balance file clerk with Supply Company, 1st Supply Battalion (-) (REIN), 1st MLG, about the machine's capability to scout ahead and above.
"Instead of putting Marines and vehicles in harm's way, they can throw (the UAV) out, find out what's going on and then have better judgment of what the mission will call for," Reyna said.
The UAV is ideal for any mission, day or night. Now, this elite warrior will handle some of the dangers Marines face in Iraq and let them know what's around the next corner.