Saturday, February 10, 2007

2nd BSTB Soldiers are ‘commander’s eye in the sky’

Spc. David Colon
2nd BSTB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER — It was a clear, warm evening, just like any other in Iraq. Men, women and children were taking care of their daily chores as they heard a distant buzzing sound. Little did they know it was the Shadow descending on the terrorists a few houses down.
Soldiers from the Shadow Unmanned Aerial System platoon, Company B, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) use the Shadow on a regular basis to monitor what is going on in the neighborhoods of Iraq. This platoon is the first Shadow UAV platoon the 2nd BCT has ever deployed with.
“The Shadow UAV platoon has added an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to the 2nd BCT that previously only existed at division and higher levels,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Harrison, the 2nd BSTB commander and native of Snellville, Ga. “The Shadow allows the brigade to obtain information about areas of interest and to see who or what is traveling through those areas. It also gives the brigade commander and task force commanders live information about what is happening on an objective.”
The Shadow is just like any other aircraft, but what makes it unique is the absence of a pilot inside. Instead of the cockpit being inside of the plane, it is located in a Humvee. The shadow can be flown virtually anywhere in theater, if needed.
The goal of the Soldiers operating the Shadow is to keep constant watch on the Iraqi neighborhoods in order to keep them safe from terrorists, as well as supporting the troops on the ground.
“We are the eyes and ears of the brigade commander,” said Sgt. Dylan Neill of Emporia, Kan., who serves as a 2nd BSTB standardization operator. “We give the commander the opportunity to get actual imagery of any part of the brigade’s area of operation.”
The powerful camera mounted in the fuselage of the aircraft, allows for the support of the troops on the ground by conducting reconnaissance, developing targets and finding possible threats to include improvised explosive devices.
During a recent use of the Shadow, Soldiers of the 2nd BSTB were able to detect and relay to ground forces the location of a terrorist in the Mahmudiyah, Iraq area.
The mission payload operator was controlling the camera searching for enemy activity near the target house, when he noticed a terrorist fleeing from the house. He immediately located the location of the terrorist using the camera’s crosshairs so the troops on the ground could follow him and detain him.
While the MPO was controlling the camera, aerial vehicle operator, was maneuvering the plane to support the MPO. In the mean time the mission commander was communicating with the units, reporting where the enemy was and what possible threat they might encounter.
“Each person in the Shadow platoon is qualified to be a aerial vehicle operator and a mission payload operator,” Neill said of the mission. “We get a lot of interesting missions here.”
The mission helped to keep the people of the town safe by letting the ground forces know of the location of the terrorist. The ground troops were then able to detain the terrorist with the intelligence they received from the Shadow UAV platoon members.
That was one of the many missions the platoon has flown.
The Iraqi local nationals have nicknamed the Shadow “The Fly,” because of the buzzing sound it makes when it’s locked on to its target, flying at low altitudes, as its big eye reports their every movement.
Since the platoon’s arrival in Iraq, only five months ago, they have found IEDs, mortar rounds, enemy weapon cache sites and two anti-aircraft artillery guns.
On another occasion members of the platoon used the shadow to catch four terrorists burying IEDs in a road.
On more than one occasion, the platoon has guided the ground troops towards enemy targets and warned them of threats in their paths.
“The UAV team has flown over 1,840 mission hours since the brigade’s transfer of authority in September,” Harrison said.
With the intelligence the Shadow platoon provides, unit commanders have received an added benefit enabling them to direct their Soldiers on the battlefield and make enhanced critical decisions during operations. This added benefit has earned the shadow platoon’s nickname, “commander’s eye in the sky.”
“The brigade has come to depend upon the intelligence it receives from the Shadow UAV and it (the brigade) could not operate as successfully or remain as agile as it has in Iraq’s rural terrain without the Shadow,” Harrison said. “The UAV platoon Soldiers are well trained and motivated … They are writing the book on how to support a BCT with UAVs.”

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