By Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor (3rd ABCT, 4th ID)May 10, 2017
GRAFENWOHER TRAINING AREA, Germany -- Soldiers of Company D, 588th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, have logged more than 100 hours of flight time since launching their RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial systems for the first time here a couple months ago.
The UAS platoon is taking advantage of daily field training by the brigade's maneuver battalions, which have been preparing for multinational exercises in support of U.S. Army Europe's Atlantic Resolve mission.
"Our mission is to support maneuver battalions in the brigade to effectively complete their objectives," said 1st Lt. Andrew Rotolo, the UAS platoon leader. "We do that by providing reconnaissance, target acquisition and over-watch for ground troops in their area of operation. We are training to maintain our operational readiness so that we can support all the exercises that are going on this summer."
Those exercises include the USAREUR-led Combined Resolve VIII here, which will include more than 3,400 participants from 10 nations, and the Black Sea Region-based Saber Guardian 17 set of exercises that will unite more than 25,000 troops from 23 Ally and partner nations.
During daily flight operations, Shadow controllers start off by going through a regular training cycle.
"We ensured that all the operators were current on their aviation requirements and getting new Soldiers up to speed. We started our gunnery progression, which is kind of a new thing to an unmanned aircraft systems repairer. That involves everything from the basics -- identify targets, acquire them and communicate with other assets like field artillery or other aviation assets," said Rotolo.
During the first phase of Combined Resolve VIII, the UAS platoon integrated with one of 3/4 ABCT's combined-arms battalions, the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment to provide eyes on targets during a combined live-fire exercise.
"We've been flying for them in support of their live fire by spotting targets and giving them grids to put rounds on those targets. That allows us to participate in a larger role for Combined Resolve VII. That's our culminating piece, where we show we've been able to progress from the basic tasks through more advance gunnery training," said Rotolo.
He added: "We are trying to demonstrate relevance of the platform within an armored brigade combat team to prove versatility to maneuver commanders who are not familiar with Shadows."
Training in theater is a lot better than training back home in the United States, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Moff, UAS platoon sergeant.
"We have a lot more opportunities to work with other units within the brigade to help support them with their mission. Back at Fort Carson, Colorado, it was a little difficult because they were more focused with what they're doing. We're showing them we can be legitimate assets within the brigade; we can help make their mission a lot easier."
While on the 9-month Atlantic Resolve rotation, the platoon has a goal of 500 total flight hours, an unprecedented amount of training the UAS operators wouldn't get at home station.
"We are getting a lot of good training," said Pfc. Allex Madsen, an unmanned aircraft systems repairer for Delta Co., 558th BEB. "I feel great that something that I'm working on is helping the Soldiers in the brigade. The biggest thing to do is maintaining the aircraft. We follow strict guidelines to ensure we do things properly."