REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Shadow Unmanned Aircraft System, long one of the most popular in the Army's fleet, is beginning to reap the benefits of a "reset" decision that will make it a go-to system for every combat action brigade in theater.
And, just as the upgraded Shadow takes flight, the Army leader behind that decision is being taken off mission to move on to better opportunities.
Lt. Col. Scott Anderson has spent his three years as the product manager for the Ground Maneuver Product Office, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Program Executive Office for Aviation, working with the Shadow team of employees to ensure the long-term success of the Shadow UAS in its reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition mission, and in its effective teaming with manned systems like the Apache helicopter and various missile systems.
"As the product manager, Scott walked in at a point in time when there was a huge decision to be made whether to proceed to operational test or go the tactical route," said Col. Courtney Cote, project manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
"He decided there was a need to reset and, by so doing, set the conditions for success."
Cote outlined Anderson's and Team Shadow's successes during a change of charter Aug. 13 that congratulated Anderson on his new assignment at the Pentagon where he will join the Army deputy chief of staff's Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate. The move will allow Anderson to rejoin his wife and two daughters, who he was geographically separated from during much of the time he was assigned to Redstone Arsenal.
The ceremony also welcomed incoming Shadow UAS product manager Lt. Col. Tory Burgess, an Army aviator and combat veteran who served at Redstone previously as the assistant product manager for Black Hawk and UAS programs, along with serving as the executive officer for the PEO.
Switching out one good leader for another is the Army way, Cote said.
He described Anderson as the right leader for a "very strong team. He has a lot of passion for making sure the Soldier has what he deserves, what he desires and what he needs." It has been evident to Cote, even in the short month that he has been the UAS project manager, that Anderson's passion was the Soldier and that "every breath he took was focused on the Soldier."
During his tenure in the Shadow office, key upgrades to the system included: a Tactical Common Data Link to provide improved data/video transmission, and longer range and enhanced security; an extended wing that extended flight endurance and enlarged payload capability; a laser designator capability to set on an intended target to allow a laser-guided missile or Apache/fixed-wing aircraft to destroy it; and engine improvements to increase tolerance to extreme cold conditions and lower the accident rate. The upgraded Shadow passed all qualifications tests in May and is now being fielded to the war fighter.
The improvements allow for greater use of the Shadow in teaming efforts with Apache helicopters, allowing the Army to remove manned platforms -- such as the OH-58D Kiowa Warriors -- from the battle space.
In addition, reset costs were reduced without impacting user availability or proficiency by incorporating a reset inspection process in place of the routine 100 percent reset induction, which reduced costs by about 70 percent; and by migrating maintenance tasks from contractor field service representatives to Soldier-level maintenance, which reduced costs by about 50 percent.
Cote said he is confident Burgess will be able to successfully take on the weight of command of Team Shadow, yet he will have to jump on the team quickly.
"It's up to him to get in stride with the team because they are in stride achieving great things," he said. "Tory will have a great team to rely on."
During the ceremony, Anderson received both the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Aviation Association of America's Knight of the Honorable Order of St. Michael.
In turn, Anderson thanked several Shadow staff members by name and the 60-employee team as a whole in its mission to "provide real capability to the Army every day." He described them as "combat multipliers."
"This is a big group effort. For whatever reason, a lot of people like us," Anderson said, referring to the success Team Shadow has had in supporting the war fighter.
As a combat veteran, Burgess said he has "witnessed the dedication of Team Shadow while serving in the Army."
He recounted for the audience a memory of his grandfather, who would tell stories about serving on the USS Savannah during World War II, and how the strength of that ship allowed him to survive the war.
That ship "was a good ship," Burgess recalled his grandfather saying, "because of the hard work, dedication, ingenuity and 'never say quit' attitude of people who came before us."
Someday, Burgess believes old Soldiers will be saying the same thing about Shadow.
"They will say, 'I'm alive because of the Shadow UAS.' That's a big deal. … Please never forget why we do what we do," Burgess said.
Burgess is a Black Hawk aviator who commanded during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom and participated in all major combat engagements including the Battle of Karbala and the assault on the Baghdad International Airport in April 2003. He has served in the Human Resources Command as an aviation assignments officer and then as a member of the Acquisition Corps during his first assignment with PEO Aviation at Redstone. Prior to this return assignment, Burgess served in the Office of the Assistant Security of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, during which one of his positions was as an acquisition adviser to the Regional Command-South commander in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
"I'm honored to join this awesome team," Burgess said.