Historic launch held at Camp Taji
October 19, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The residents of Camp Taji, Iraq, are exposed to an incessant buzzing - a sound of safety for the troops on the ground in Multi-National Division-Baghdad area of operations.
And the source of all this racket' Well, it's none other than the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division's, unmanned aerial vehicle launch site.
The Soldiers of Company E, 615th Aviation Support "Cold Steel" Battalion, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. have been working day and night, pushing the limits of their equipment, to ensure the troops on the ground in Baghdad have an extra set of eyes overhead - setting records in the process, said 1st Sgt. Joseph Bell, the senior noncommissioned officer for Co. E.
"We have recently passed 30,000 flight hours which is almost double what (the previous unit) flew," said Bell who hails from Jacksonville, Fla. "Our goal was to actually reach 25,000 (flight hours), but then we passed that. We just keep pushing the envelope."
Pushing the envelope is now the standard for Co. E, which covers seven brigades within the MND-B area of operations - along with whoever else happens to be rolling through the area, said Bell.
Exceeding their goal has had a positive effect on morale throughout the ranks.
"I'm excited because I feel I'm apart of a team. I feel like I helped contribute to make those numbers where they are," said Galveston, Texas, native Sgt. Christopher Willis, a UAV crew chief and technical inspector for Co. E.
"That number is outstanding; everyone is going to try to duplicate that," said Willis.
Along with being a part of a team that has set the standard for UAV operations, Willis also got to be a part of history when he let Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar, commanding general of Baghdad Operational Command, launch his aircraft, Oct. 14. He was not only the first Iraqi general to launch a UAV, but the first-ever Iraqi to do so, said Bell.
"We would like to see more of our Iraqi counterparts come and actually see what we're doing to help them out," Bell said. After giving a quick briefing about the procedures Willis handed over the controls to Abud.
"I was excited that he got the opportunity to launch an aircraft. I just made history; I'm a part of history," Willis said with a big smile.
Letting Abud launch his aircraft was a big deal for Willis. Not only because he made history, but because that aircraft is his "baby." He said he doesn't let just anyone touch it. He is with it from launch to recovery, he said.
"When it's on the launcher, we go around it two or three times just in case because you can forget something the first time around," said Willis. "So we take this job very seriously and make sure that we get that airplane up."
With all numbers and accolades aside, Co. E work hard for a singular reason, said Willis.
"I honestly like what I do ... I like the positive feedback from launching every aircraft, because I know that we're getting eyes in the sky for those guys on the ground," said Willis.