April 16, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- A company of 1st Infantry Division Soldiers responsible for operating and maintaining an unmanned aerial system considered a "game-changer" downrange was officially activated here April 12.
The guideon for F Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, was unfurled during a ceremony at Marshall Army Airfield. The Soldiers assigned to the new "Fenix" Company are the division's subject matter experts for one of the Army's newest UAS assets -- the Gray Eagle.
"This is a major milestone in the modernization of the 1st CAB," Brigade Commander Col. Mike Morgan said. "The Gray Eagle is truly a formidable capability that we are fortunate to be able to put in place at the Big Red One."
The Gray Eagle is a medium-altitude long-endurance system designed to perform better at higher altitudes, sees better and listens better than its predecessors. New targeting systems and a new engine also allow the aircraft to fly longer and higher and carry more weight than many of the Army's previous unmanned systems.
During his remarks at the activation ceremony, Morgan celebrated the Gray Eagle's capabilities and noted that the system is a key part of the Army's modern full-spectrum combat aviation brigade.
"Our missions of today and tomorrow require overhead platforms that provide new, real-time intelligence, surveillance, security and targeting," Morgan said. "Gray Eagle is a state-of-the-art platform that allows ground forces to move further faster and provides a picture for the commanders so they can make more informed decisions for maneuver and security."
Fenix Company is home to more than 120 Soldiers who represent more than 20 military occupational specialties. Considered "self-sustaining," the company can "pack up, deploy, unpack, launch, get the mission done and move again if necessary all the while fueling themselves, launching themselves, feeding themselves and taking care of the ground force."
"We have the best Soldiers our Army can offer," Fenix Company1st Sgt. Leon Black said. "Gray Eagle operators are the best of the UAS operators so we have the best guys and girls in the formation."
Now that the company is established at Fort Riley, the division's Gray Eagle Team will soon travel west to conduct the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation on the system. The upcoming tests are the next step in the process to get the Gray Eagle fully integrated into the Army's aviation brigade formations.
"We are going to field it, test it, be successful in doing both and take the Gray Eagles down range," Black said.
Morgan is confident the Gray Eagle UAS is the right platform to help the Army Aviation community continue to keep U.S. Soldiers safe and informed wherever their missions may take them in the future.
"America's sons and daughters deserve nothing less" than this great piece of equipment, he said.