By Pfc. April Campbell
27th Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — In the civilian world, sneaking a peak at an exam before taking it will earn someone a failing score. Sneaking a peak at the front lines before leaving the base for a mission, however, can save lives in the combat zone.
Soldiers with the Unmanned Aerial Systems Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, help provide that sneak peek for brigade’s soldiers as well as others in the Multinational Division-Baghdad operational area. This group is responsible for operating and maintaining the tactical unmanned aerial system for the RQ7B Shadow 200, an unmanned aerial vehicle.
While some platoon members work at the brigade’s tactical operations center, both flying and monitoring the video feed from the Shadow, about half of them are at the launch and recovery site here attached to Golf Company, Task Force XII, said Staff Sgt. Robert Lilly, the UAS platoon sergeant.
Brigade soldiers at the launch and recovery site, working as part of the task force, work with soldiers from other brigades in the Baghdad area of operations recovering and launching Shadows throughout the day. The Shadows launched and recovered by these soldiers will not necessarily spend all of their flight time in any one brigade’s area of operations, said Chief Warrant Officer-2 Antonio Mitchell, the platoon’s operations chief.
“What we are doing here is not a traditional UAS operation,” said Mitchell, who has been working in the unmanned aerial vehicle field since 1997. “Normally a UAS platoon works directly for (its) brigade.”
Because there are several brigades in Baghdad, which one gets to use the Shadow and for which missions is determined by Multinational Division-Baghdad, Lilly said.
The division grants the brigades airspace priority based on the threat and the amount of benefit it will provide in a certain area for a certain period of time, Mitchell said.
When a Shadow is in the Striker Brigade’s area, platoon soldiers in the brigade’s tactical operations center monitor the video produced by it. Nearby, there are other brigade soldiers who remotely control the unmanned aircraft, Lilly said.
Soldiers may be monitoring an area of interest for various reasons, including sweeping areas for IEDs as well as assisting soldiers with specific operations, Lilly said.
“Before soldiers go out on a mission, we can give them a better picture of the battlefield,” Lilly said.
Having a bird’s-eye view helps to keep soldiers safe and allow them a greater success rate during their missions. With the Shadows giving them an up-to-date glimpse of their area, soldiers can have an even greater understanding of their surroundings.