300th tower deploys to save lives
November 13, 2008
In 2003, Raytheon officials approached then Maj. Gen. John Urias with an idea to boost surveillance for troops in Iraq.
Urias, who was both the program executive officer for air, space and missile defense and the deputy commander for the Space and Missile Defense Command, liked the concept and forwarded it up the chain to then Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane. The idea of persistent surveillance capability appealed to Keane, too.
"His rationale was, 'If it saves one life, it's worth it,'" Urias recalled.
The Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment tower was born.
On Thursday, the Army and Raytheon celebrated the 300th RAID tower to be delivered to theater. The surveillance system helps protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's come full circle," Urias said of his experience with the system. Since getting the program started as a Soldier, he now serves as Raytheon's vice president for force application programs. The retired major general has been with Raytheon for almost 17 months.
"I'm amazed and so impressed with the dedication of the entire team," Urias said.
Flights through the Air Force deliver the equipment directly to the troops in theater. The 100th flight started Nov. 4 and arrived the evening of Nov. 5 in Iraq. The 300th tower was flown to Iraq on Sunday, Nov. 9.
There are 80-foot towers and 107-foot towers. The Marines Corps' G-BOSS (Ground-Based Operational Surveillance System) version has two cameras, a radar, and a radio link to a remote ground station. The BETSS-C (Base Expeditionary Targeting and Surveillance Systems-Combined) version has one camera.
Lt. Col. Jay Gautreaux is the Army's product director for RAID. He was among the speakers at Thursday's celebration held at Raytheon's plant on James Record Road in Huntsville.
Gautreaux said the system is making a difference as far as saving lives of war fighters and preventing insurgent activity.
"I appreciate from the bottom of my heart what you do on a daily basis because it doesn't happen on its own," he said.
He thanked these men and women who work behind the scenes. Then he asked if any of the attendees had a question for him.
Raytheon worker Terry Smith stood and expressed her own appreciation for her co-workers as the mother of a Marine in harm's way. Her son, Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Roy, is deployed as a door gunner on a Huey helicopter.
"I want to thank everyone for what you're doing," Smith said. "We need this (surveillance system). And thank you very much. Thank you all."