Fort Drum Community
Rakkasans provide eye-in-the-sky training
Story by SGT Aaron Daugherty on 01/17/2019
FORT CAMPBELL, KY – The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Brigade Aviation Element certified nine Soldiers from across the Division on the RQ-11 Raven Unmanned Aerial System, culminating with a live test flight at Range 75, Jan. 14.
The test flight serves as the final portion of the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) course, which validated the Soldiers on the use of the system.
The AeroVironment factsheet says the Raven is the most widely used unmanned aircraft system in the world today. The Raven B DDL system, an enhanced version of the battle proven Raven B system, is a lightweight solution designed for rapid deployment and high mobility for military applications requiring low-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance intelligence.
The Raven can be either remotely controlled from the ground station or fly completely autonomous missions using GPS waypoint navigation.
Chief Warrant Officer Francis Zeigler, the SUAS Master Trainer for the Brigade Aviation Element, went over the requirements of the course during his week-long classroom training, where they learned about the systems and conducted simulated exercises on piloting and navigating the Raven. Once the week-long study was completed, the nine Soldiers occupied the range to test the systems with hands-on flights, completing their training and earning their certification at the end of the second week.
“Today we will be conducting assembly, disassembly of the equipment, some mission planning on the laptops, as well as live flight operations,” stated Zeigler. “The course is broken up into two portions, the first portion is 40 hours of classroom instruction and simulated flights. The second portion is 40 hours of live flight operations at the range.”
“The Soldiers have maintained a positive attitude,” said Zeigler. “They’re motivated, working through the issues that we’ve had. We’ve got to conduct during this initial qualification training than in the past ones.”
The Raven gives commanders on the ground and in the rear a perspective of the battlefield they otherwise wouldn’t be able to view. Man-portable and light, it is able to be set up and deployed in minutes and provides a live, real-time view of the battlefield directly to Soldiers on the ground.
“As a Raven operator I can provide my leadership with reconnaissance, eyes in the sky, and intelligence they would not otherwise have,” said Spc. Aaron Kelly, an infantryman with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
For Sgt. Jamal Lewis, a member of the Sustainment Automation Support Office for 626th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said that learning a skill outside his normal duties helps the unit when they head out to the field.
“Since I’m medical, being able to fly a system and learn something like this outside my profession, I like it. Not everybody gets a chance to do something like this and learn more than what they already know, so it’s really good to not only do medical stuff, but to feel like you’re a part of the operational mission as well.”