2-13th Aviation Battalion graduates 10,000th recorded student
Pfc. Christopher Cervantes and Sgt. Adrian Velez, students with the Army's UAS training program in 2010, inspect a Shadow before takeoff at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Feb. 1, 2012) - The 2nd Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment graduated its 10,000th recorded student here Feb. 1.

Denver-native Pfc. James Leaverton, a 15W unmanned aerial vehicle operator, was identified as the 10,000th graduate.

"It's pretty cool, but I don't feel like I did anything overly special," Leaverton said, upon learning his graduation was marking a milestone for the school. "I mean, there were almost 10,000 other students who did the same thing before me."

"The entire throughput was 63 students for [2000]. Now, for fiscal year '12, we are looking at 2,509, so, we've grown a little bit," said Charles Rossman, senior training specialist, who has been personally tracking the statistics.

The UAS training unit has seen significant growth since 2000, when it had one building, a dirt runway, less than 30 contractors and 27 Department of Army civilian instructors on staff, graduated less than 100 Aviation Soldiers per fiscal year, offered only two courses and only trained on one system, the Hunter (MQ-5B).

Although the unmanned aircraft systems schoolhouse has been training since 1994, graduation statistics were not officially tracked until fiscal year 2000, Rossman added.

There are now 405 contractors and 131 DAC instructors on staff to train more than 2,000 Aviation Soldiers per fiscal year in 22 courses on four systems: Hunter, Shadow, Warrior-A and Gray Eagle.

The nearly 400-percent growth in trained operators and repairers over the past 12 years is no surprise to Dean of Academics Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Finney.

"We're gradually moving up the ladder as there is more demand out there for [unmanned aircraft systems] around the echelons of the military and around the world," Finney said.

While the 2-13th is an Army Aviation unit, it offers joint-service training. In addition to Soldiers, servicemembers from the Navy, Air Force, Marines and up to 140 students from foreign military services also train at the school. Operators are in high demand across the defense, federal and civilian spectrums.

With the significant contributions of UAS to Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, border security, law enforcement and intelligence, the field can only grow.

"It saves lives," Finney said. "That's the bottom line."

If the 2-13th's trend of 2,500 graduates per fiscal year continues, it will take less than half the time to reach the next 10,000 milestone.

Page last updated Wed February 1st, 2012 at 15:44