116th BSTB Shadow UAS detachment conducts first flight in Virginia

Soldiers assigned to the Bowling Green-based Detachment 1, Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct their first flight of the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system in Virginia Oct. 4, 2014, at Fort A. P. Hill, Va. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers assigned to the Bowling Green-based Detachment 1, Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct their first flight of the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system in Virginia Oct. 4, 2014, at Fort A. P. Hill, Va. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

FORT A. P. HILL, Va. — Soldiers assigned to the Bowling Green-based Detachment 1, Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conducted their first flight of the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system in Virginia Oct. 4, 2014, at Fort A. P. Hill, Va. Virginia Guard Airmen from the Camp Pendleton-based 203rd RED HORSE Squadron reconstructed the runway at Fort A. P. Hill’s Finnegan Airfield unmanned aircraft system training site in July 2014, and the improved runway allowed the Shadow crews to begin flight training in Virginia. Previously they conducted their flight training at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and having a runway closer to home station improves readiness and increases their ability to meet flight hour requirements.

“Today was not only about conducting the first flight in Virginia but testing out the logistics and support requirements that are needed to conduct flight operations training throughout the year,” said Capt. Neal Grimm, commander of Company B. “This is a new runway and new infrastructure, and we wanted to make sure it would enable us to accomplish our training goals. It has been 100 percent successful.”

Grimm explained that new facility will help the detachment meet their requirement of 192 flight hours each year for the UAV program.

“Past flght operation required about a three hour drive in one direction, and now it is less than a five mile drive,” Grimm said. “It allows us much more time on the ground to conduct flight operations, and our goal will be to come out and fly every drill weekend. It is definitely going to increase the amount of time we will have for flight operations.”

Detachment 1 is one of 27 National Guard Class II UAS programs that provide 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 battlefield.

About 38 Airmen from the 203rd took part in the runway reconstruction project that included removing the existing runway, leveling the grade of the runway to meet specifications, laying asphalt upon the completed runway subgrade and improving the drainage along the sides of the runway.

“This is great. We typically don’t get to see things that you build in action so this really hits home.;” said 1st Lt. Joseph Barr, project officer from the 203rd RED HORSE for the second phase of the runway reconstruction project.

Barr said that the project provided a great training opportunity to put skills and equipment to use that they don’t always get to use. “We don’t get the opportunity to run our asphalt machine every year, but when we do, it is great training for our Airmen,” he said.

The work included approximately 4,388 man-hours, the removal of 1,500 tons of existing asphalt, grading and placement of 2,500 tons of stone base course and installing 1,250 tons of pavement.

“Upon determining this project would provide excellent training for the 203rd RHS, the Virginia Joint Force Headquarters and Fort A.P. Hill staffs worked together to provide the tasking to the 203rd RHS,” said Lt. Col. Stock Dinsmore, commander of the 203rd RHS. “Airfield construction and repair is one of the primary special capabilities of RED HORSE units, so our Airmen were excited to execute this mission. This project provided a great opportunity to evaluate the problems with the existing landing strip and continue with the appropriate repair, which was replacement.”

The unit conducted UAS operations in Afghanistan for 6 months in 2011 and 2012.

Additional reporting by Tech. Sgt. Meghan Skrepenski, Virginia Air National Guard Public Affairs, and Sgt. Jo Anna Ellen Greene, 116th IBCT Public Affairs

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116th BSTB Shadow UAS detachment conducts first flight in Virginia
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157648318959396/

203rd RED HORSE engineer projects aide VMI, Fort A. P. Hill
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2014/08/07/5842/

PHOTOS: 203rd RHS reconstructs unmanned aircraft system runway at Fort A.P. Hill
https://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157645512811958/

116th IBCT Soldiers train on new unmanned aerial system aircraft
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2014/02/07/4918/

Virginia unmanned aerial system platoon resets after Afghanistan deployment
http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/2012/11/05/2450/