FORT HOOD — A new unmanned aerial system buzzed through the skies of Fort Hood this week.

Troopers of 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, participated in a 10-day course to learn to operate the Puma — a 13-pound system used for day and night surveillance.

The “Phantom Recon” Squadron is the only Fort Hood unit training on the Puma, and should finish the course today, allowing it to use the system to conduct full missions, said Jon Stiner, training specialist with Aerovironment, the company behind the Puma and the Army’s Raven, a smaller unmanned aerial vehicle.

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

For more than two years, Aerovironment has trained soldiers on the Puma, which 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.

“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.”

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.

The Puma is now the fourth type of unmanned aerial system flying at Fort Hood. Read more about it in Wednesday’s Fort Hood Herald.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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