116th IBCT Soldiers train on new unmanned aerial system aircraft

Soldiers, from the Bowling Green-based Detachment 1, Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, train at Webster Field, Naval Air Station Patuxent River,  Md., Feb. 1, using their new increased endurance RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system.  The UAS provides Army brigade commanders with tactical level reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, battle damage assessment, and communication relay capabilities.  (Photo by Sgt. JoAnna Greene, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office)

Soldiers, from the Bowling Green-based Detachment 1, Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, train at Webster Field, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., Feb. 1, using their new increased endurance RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system. The UAS provides Army brigade commanders with tactical level reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, battle damage assessment, and communication relay capabilities. (Photo by Sgt. JoAnna Greene, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office)

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– Soldiers of the Bowling Green-based Detachment 1, Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team trained at Webster Field, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., Jan. 31- Feb. 2, 2014, using their new increased-endurance RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system.

The training weekend provided Soldiers an opportunity to get hands-on experience in all aspects of the UAS, including setting up all components of the approximately $10 million system and coordinating with both military and civilian air traffic control.

“Training experience like this allows us to increase the Soldiers readiness levels, and our goal this year is to have all the Soldiers qualify Readiness Level 1, the highest,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Samuel Worley, operations technician warrant.

Detachment 1 is one of 27 National Guard Class II UAS programs. Class II UAS programs provides Army brigade commanders with tactical level reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, battle damage assessment, and communication relay capabilities. With the detachment’s three unmanned aerial vehicles, it can provide 24/7 coverage on the battle field.

The unit conducted UAS operations in Afghanistan for 6 months in 2011 and 2012. Last May and June seven Soldiers of the detachment spent a month training at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss. After the course the Soldiers achieved Level 1 Readiness, allowing them to conduct flight operations. This weekend’s flight served as their first platoon-wide flights since resetting from deployment.

“It’s nice to be able to impart some of the information I’ve gained to our new Soldiers, just out of the school house,” said Spc. Zachary Finch, a veteran of the unit’s 2011 deployment.

It can take one to two years after school for Soldiers to reach Readiness Level 1, said Worley.

Having experienced troops like Finch helps the unit to be autonomous.

“These skills are very perishable, training is critical, and developing very strong instructor pilots is necessary for having an organic unit like this,” said Col. John Epperly, commander of the 116th IBCT.

Anytime the Soldiers can get out and fly, after working on simulators, helps them become fully capable, said Lt. Col. Charles B. Martin, Jr., commander of the 116th BSTB. You can’t put a value on this kind of capability.

We have many more flight operations planned for this year, said Martin. And with the new facility being built at Fort A.P. Hill, the unit will be able to get more flying time in.

“This Class II UAV system gives me very responsive intelligence, it’s here within the brigade, so I don’t have to go ask for assistance elsewhere,” said Epperly. “It increases mission effectiveness and provides greater security for our Soldiers.”

“UAV sustainment training and readiness is a National Guard Bureau priority, I report every month on how well the 116th UAS platoon is doing,” said Epperly. “So I know for a fact that they are one of the best in the nation.”

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