By Spc. Matthew A. Thompson
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
HOHENFELS, Germany -- The black top of the runway stretches out for a few hundred yards as a Soldier pushes an unmanned aerial vehicle toward the launcher designed to sling it into the air.
UAVs have been used since World War I. Their purpose on the battlefield evolved from weapons that destroy enemy targets during World War I to the Army's modern mission of surveillance and reconnaissance without the loss of human life.
The Army uses a much more sophisticated system to observe enemy troop movements and warn Soldiers and allies of dangers that may be faced along the way. UAVs are known by the Soldiers who use them as the eyes in the sky.
"We can use a UAV to do route reconnaissance and spot differences in the pavement from an area we observed previously," said Sgt. Anthony Perdue, a UAS flight line non-commissioned officer in charge with 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. "We can catch the threat beforehand."
The UAS squad here is a six member crew that includes their maintenance crew, operators and squad leader. Most of these personnel work out on the flight line while their squad leader works in the joint operations center.
The squad provides support to the coalition forces here which includes battalions from the British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies. Sgt. Edward Powell, squad leader and fore-sight non-commissioned officer in charge with 3-2 SBCT said, "We get an opportunity to show how great an asset UASs are here."
Each nation has a remote video terminal so they can see what the UAS squad sees. Perdue said, "We offer them the same overhead protection and warning during the training here."
Flying the UAV remotely, Spc. Joshua Thacker, a UAV operator for the brigade, operates the electronic camera and infrared camera attached to observe troop movements and possible enemy forces so that the Soldiers on the ground can avoid ambushes and other obstacles, such as improvised explosive devices, downed bridges or overpasses.
The brigade's UAS squad gains valuable training while supporting other countries.
"The training is a great opportunity to learn more about interacting with other countries and incorporating what we learn [from the other nations] into our training," Thacker said. "It's also a good opportunity to create good will and connect with some countries on a personal level."
The UAS squad with 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division is supporting the efforts at Cooperative Spirit 2008 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center near Hohenfels, Germany in support of the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies Program interoperability test.
As the skies clear the following day, Soldiers wearing the flags of the five nations joined together in a common purpose can look up knowing the "eyes in the sky" are looking over them.