Troopers of 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, added a new reconnaissance tool last week to better facilitate future missions.

During a 10-day course, soldiers learned to operate the Puma unmanned aerial system — a 13-pound, battery-operated aircraft used for day and night surveillance.

The “Phantom Recon” Squadron is the only Fort Hood unit training on the Puma, and finished the course Friday, allowing it to use the system to conduct full missions, said Jon Stiner, training specialist with Aerovironment, the company behind the Puma.

Ideally, it takes two soldiers to operate the Puma system, but it could be done with one, he said.

While the Puma hasn’t been seen at Fort Hood until now, Aerovironment has trained soldiers on the system for more than two years.

The Puma is similar to Aerovironment’s other Army-used aircraft, the Raven, in that they look similar and are launched by hand. The Puma, though, is nearly 10 pounds heavier than the Raven, with a better camera and better endurance. It is also waterproof and able to adjust for high winds, Stiner said. It flies at a range of 300 to 500 feet in the air.

“There are going to be a lot of things we can use it for in our upcoming missions,” said Sgt. Robert Garcia of his squadron’s three newly acquired Puma systems. “We’ve all taken to this thing pretty well.”

Spc. Williams said he enjoyed flying the Puma and working with the cameras.

“It could be used for reconnaissance, route clearing — you can see everything. It has lots of uses,” he said.

The biggest challenge in learning to operate the system, he said, was launching the Puma by hand, without driving it into the ground.

“You’ve got to throw it into the wind so you’re getting that lift,” said Spc. Craig Chappell, a medic who learned the system for the first time. “It’s something as a medic, I never really handle so it was fun coming out here.”

The Puma is the fourth type of unmanned aerial system flying at Fort Hood.

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