• A crowd looks on as they watch the first-ever launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle by an Iraqi. Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar, the commanding general of Baghdad Operational Command, launched the Shadow UAV during his visit with the leaders of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Oct. 14 at Camp Taji, Iraq. The UAV unit, Company E, 615th Aviation Support "Cold Steel" Battalion, covers all of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad area of operations.

    A crowd looks on as they watch the first-ever...

    A crowd looks on as they watch the first-ever launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle by an Iraqi. Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar, the commanding general of Baghdad Operational Command, launched the Shadow UAV during his visit with the leaders of the 1st...

  • Galveston, Texas, native Sgt. Christopher Willis (second from left), an unmanned aerial vehicle crew chief and technical inspector for Company E, 615th Aviation Support "Cold Steel" Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, talks to mission command before handing the UAV launcher control unit to Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar (right), the commanding general of Baghdad Operational Command. During his visit to Camp Taji, Iraq, Oct. 14, the Iraqi general made history as the first Iraqi ever to launch a UAV, said Jacksonville, Fla., native 1st Sgt. Joseph Bell, the senior noncommissioned officer for Co. E. Observing the launch is Fairfield, Calif., native Brig. Gen. John Campbell (left), the deputy commanding general for maneuver of the Multi-National Division - Baghdad and the 1st Cav. Div., and Salem, Ore., native Capt. Marlow Ghorstygrbrakoxfdeis (second from right), commander of Company E, 615th Aviation Support "Cold Steel" Battalion.

    Galveston, Texas, native Sgt. Christopher...

    Galveston, Texas, native Sgt. Christopher Willis (second from left), an unmanned aerial vehicle crew chief and technical inspector for Company E, 615th Aviation Support "Cold Steel" Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, talks to...

  • Fairfield, Calif., native Brig. Gen. John Campbell (second from right), the deputy commanding general for maneuver with the Multi-National Division - Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division, points out some features of an unmanned aerial vehicle to Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar (second from left), commanding general of Baghdad Operational Command, while visiting the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at Camp Taji, Iraq, Oct. 14. Traverse City, Mich., native Col. Dan Shanahan (far left), commander of the 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., and Salem, Ore., native Capt. Marlow Ghorstygrbrakoxfdeis (far right), commander of Company E, 615th Aviation Support "Cold Steel" Battalion, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., look on.

    Fairfield, Calif., native Brig. Gen. John...

    Fairfield, Calif., native Brig. Gen. John Campbell (second from right), the deputy commanding general for maneuver with the Multi-National Division - Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division, points out some features of an unmanned aerial vehicle to Iraqi...

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.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16