By Sgt. Arjenis NunezDecember 6, 2017
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Whether on land or in the skies, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade is ready to gauge the battlefield to advise foreign partners. Soldiers continued their unmanned aircraft systems training at the master level on Nov. 3, 2017, at Fort Benning, Ga.
The purpose of the Master UAS course is to help the 1st SFAB develop their own UAS operators internally without having to request outside support.
"Being a UAS operator is more than just flying a drone," said Staff Sgt. Arturo Salcedo, a cavalry scout who is assisting the Master UAS operator training. "It's about providing a real-time feed of the battlefield to the commander, past what the Soldiers on the ground can see, to be prepared for any situation."
As combat advisors, 1st SFAB Soldiers are tasked with providing combatant commanders with master tacticians who train, advise, assist, accompany, and enable allied nations and partner security forces.
"Modern combat operations, whether force-on-force or asymmetric, are driven by information collection," said Staff Sgt. Justin S. Seeley, a military intelligence analyst assigned to the unit. "If our Soldiers have the ability to fly a sensor in preparation of a mission, or in response to a threat, the information they are gathering in real-time may serve as the decisive edge."
Seeley, a native of Auburn, Georgia joined the 1st SFAB in August 2017. The drive to be a part of history and be a part of the foundation in a foreign nation's army so that their nation may prosper and grow was too great to pass up, said Seeley.
"I am exposed to a multitude of knowledge," said Seeley. "1st SFAB is an organization with personnel from various backgrounds with various experiences, and being able to talk to and learn from these Soldiers is an opportunity that may never present itself again."
Before reaching the Master UAS training, 1st SFAB Soldiers need to complete a two-week initial qualification course, then two weeks of RQ-11B Raven and Puma all-environment unmanned aircraft systems training and have 20 hours of flight time.
The ability to operate the different types of UAS' is an important skill in addition to the growing proficiencies the unit continues to develop in its combat advisors, said Staff Sgt. Joshua Maynard, an infantryman assigned to 1st SFAB.
"The master course has helped me refine many of the skills I've acquired through previous courses, but it is also teaching me how to correctly prepare things such as flight plans and most importantly, an aircrew training program, which is what we'll use to develop our own operators," said Maynard.
Maynard, originally from Dallas, has 14 years of service under his belt.
"I knew that volunteering for this unit meant that I, as well as those who also volunteered, wanted to be a part of something greater; wanted to be the best combat advisors they can be," said Maynard.
Maynard said the abundance of knowledge surrounding him keeps him committed to developing his proficiencies as a master operator, as well as a combat advisor.
As with any training, there is a learning curve and different challenges that come with it, said Seeley.
"I think the biggest challenge I've faced is making heads or tails of the numerous Army regulations covering UAS's that are sometimes at odds with each other," said Seeley. "It's also challenging establishing an understanding of which regulation supersedes which."
Maynard echoed that sentiment and included the challenge of fulfilling different roles on top of becoming a master UAS operator.
To overcome those challenges, 1st SFAB Soldiers believe that they have to remain diligent in reading and absorbing the material.
"I overcame the challenges of the course by reading between the lines, reviewing the material over again and voicing my questions to the course instructors to set me straight," said Seeley.
In addition to the reading, Maynard also seeks help in studying from his family who is as much a part of 1st SFAB as he is. He is married and has a five-year old daughter with another on the way.
"Me and my wife just got married in July 2017," said Maynard. "She's embracing the military lifestyle and reaches out to the spouses of other SFAB Soldiers through social media to build stronger relationships with their families."
His wife sets up coffee meets with other SFAB spouses through their Facebook page as well as park trips so their children can meet and make new friends, said Maynard.
The master UAS course will help certified 1st SFAB master operators instill confidence in the Soldiers they train to become operators, regardless of rank, and advise our foreign partners and allied nations on using the UAS systems correctly, said Salcedo.
"The training reinforces the SFAB's combat advisor idea that they are specially trained and specially selected, with unique capabilities; providing the highest example for our partners and our own Army," said Maynard.
The 1st SFAB is currently recruiting promotable specialists, sergeants and staff sergeants in combat medicine, vehicle maintenance, logistics, communications, field artillery and military intelligence.
Soldiers interested in joining the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade should contact their branch manager or visit http://www.armyreenlistment.com/sfab.html for more information.