SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan – As Guam Army National Guardsmen continue focusing on their Operation Enduring Freedom mission, they’re also enhancing a different skill.
About two dozen Guam Guardsmen will be certified to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle called a Raven after completing a civilian-sponsored training program. Taught by instructors whose company built the surveillance aircraft, the Guam soldiers welcomed the training.
Task Force Guam’s operations section picked participants from different companies to learn the Raven. Each Guam soldier must accumulate an ex-amount of operational hours that includes hand-launching the plane, which is like throwing something about the same weight of a basketball but cost about $35,000.
Jeremy Phillips, instructor and employee of EnrGies, Inc., is one of a half-dozen teachers who have taken Guam soldiers under their wings to get them officially certified. The four-pound Raven has a 4.5-foot wingspan and can fly “with an effective operational radius” of about six miles, Phillips explained. The $35,000 plane is durable and mounted with an advanced-technology video camera, but the entire system – featuring a tracking antenna and data monitor – is about a quarter of a million dollars.
“It’s a very advanced weapon system. It’s basically used for routine reconnaissance, convoy security or any type of aerial surveillance,” Phillips said. “The Guam soldiers are picking this up pretty well. They learn fast. This systems prevents soldiers from moving forward into unknown territory. They can easily launch this and see from above. This can save lives.”
[Spc. Michael A. Franquez of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, launches a Raven, a lightweight unmanned aircraft system, late October at Spin Boldak, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The hand-launched plane is basically used for low-altitude reconnaissance or surveillance. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza/Released)]
The training involves completion of a two-week course. Participants spend a few days in class, then are moved to an aerial site for hands-on learning. They learn how to guide the Raven using a control monitor. Once in the air, the Raven is operated with controls, while another monitor keeps track of the data the Raven’s cameras display.
“It’s really beneficial for our unit,” added Staff Sgt. Frank P. Quenga. “It’ll keep soldiers safe. You can get all the info you need from this system. It’ll give accurate distance from the door of a building to a road.”
The Raven operates in daytime or nighttime, Phillips explained. It can deliver infra-red imagery as well as laser illumination. It can be launched in several minutes, adding to its dependability. The plane is controlled via a tracking unit while another monitor serves as the eyes of what the Raven sees from above.
Phillips commended the Guam Guardsmen for their active involvement.
“They give the best motivation to learn. It’s like this is new to them and their anxious to see the Raven’s capabilities,” Phillips said. “There’s no doubt this is an incredible asset for any unit. It can be used for various situations, but more importantly, it saves lives.”
According to Army Technologies (http://www.army-technology.com), U.S. allies such as Australia, Italy, Denmark, United Kingdom and Spain are utilizing the Raven for their military components.
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