Unmanned Air Vehicle in Iraq
By Cpl. Vernon R. O’Donnell, USA
Special to AFPS
intelligence than your enemy is vital to the success of a military
operation, and the current situation in Iraq is no exception
Shadow tactical unmanned aerial vehicle is propelled into
the air for a flight after completing maintenance checks.
by Cpl. Vernon R. O’Donnell, USA
day, terrorists, insurgents, and members of the ousted Baath Party
attempt ambushes and place improvised explosive devices intended
to kill innocent civilians and coalition soldiers.
To combat this, the Army has recently developed
and deployed a new information gatherer – the Shadow, a
tactical unmanned aerial vehicle.
Soldiers from the 312th and 313th Military Intelligence
Battalions operate and maintain the Shadow TUAV for the 82nd Airborne
Division, which is calling the Anbar province home these days.
The vehicle’s mission is to gather intelligence from high altitudes,
which allows it to remain mostly imperceptible to enemy detection.
For the plane to accomplish its mission effectively,
a variety of different soldier occupations must work together
"The TUAV platoons are made up of TUAV operators,
mechanics, and electronic- warfare technicians," said Staff
Sgt. Matthew Norris, the platoon standardization instructor pilot
from the 312th. "It is important for all the different (specialists)
to work together, because they all cover very different areas
in the operation."
The 312th normally is part of the 1st Calvary
Division, from Fort Hood, Texas, but they have been temporarily
assigned to the 82nd. The 82nd does not yet have its own Shadows,
so it borrowed a platoon from the 1st Cavalry for the current
deployment to Iraq. In addition to performing normal combat missions,
the soldiers from the 312th are training the soldiers from the
313th for when they receive their own equipment.
Normally, each brigade-level asset in a combat
division would have its own TUAV platoon, but that was impossible,
given the current situation and the lack of 82nd-specific TUAVs.
The platoon at Forward Operating Base Ridgway is responsible for
supporting the entire 82nd Airborne Division and its subordinate
elements throughout the largest province in Iraq.
"This platoon is supporting the entire division,
so we are further apart than normal," said Chief Warrant
Officer James Harris. "An added intricacy is that the launch/recovery
site has to occasionally fly missions, so we are operating at
a higher rate and a nonstandard format for this system."
The soldiers at Ridgway are responsible for launch
and recovery and all maintenance on the Shadows. Once the vehicle
passes all preflight checks and is launched, the operators maneuver
it into position for a team at the division headquarters to take
control. The Shadows are designed so flight operation can be transferred
seamlessly from a team at one location to another at a separate
Supporting the entire division makes it even more
important to keep all four Shadows fully operational. The platoon
takes this task very seriously and performs thorough and consistent
"We are the only TUAV platoon in the Army,
at this time, to go through the initial 500 hours of flight time
without any incidents," said Staff Sgt. Jason O’Neill, the
platoon sergeant for the group from the 312th.
The significance of the Shadow’s mission isn’t
lost on the soldiers who make it happen. "While we are flying
our birds and doing surveillance, we are saving troopers’ lives,"
said Pfc. Emmanuel Rendon, a Shadow operator, "either from
route recon, looking for IEDs, or identifying any enemy ambushes
or attacks on the road."