By Spc. Ben HuttoAugust 27, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq, Aug. 21, 2007 - Staff Sgt. Matthew Hancock looked over the schematics the 82nd Airborne had put together for a mobile tactical operations center and knew that he could build something similar for his battalion.
Hancock, of Eatonton, Ga., signal chief for 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, saw the potential of having a mobile off-road vehicle equipped with multiple radio systems in his regiment's area of operation and ran with the idea.
"I actually knew we could build it better," Hancock said. "The plans I saw looked pretty flimsy. I knew there was no way that would hold up on the battlefield, so we looked to make it better. I think we improved on it in every way, actually."
In two days, Hancock, Spc. Johnny Simmons, of Columbus, Ga., and Spc. Ashley Hartin, of Columbia, S.C., both of Headquarters Company, 1-15th Infantry Regiment, transformed a regular four-wheel, all-terrain vehicle into the DRAGON V, the first Deployable Radio Air to Ground Operational Network Vehicle.
Hartin designed the cabinet that houses a 10-kilowatt generator, two long-range FM radios, a satellite radio, an un-manned aerial vehicle radio and a computer that helps the operators monitor everything on the battlefield.
Simmons provided Hancock technical support and helped wire all the equipment on the vehicle.
Pooling their expertise wasn't a problem for the three soldiers.
"The challenge for me was knowing the correct sizes of everything and making a base that could fit everything, but still provide protection and support," explained Hartin. "We worked really well together. We each helped on the other's tasks. The fact we had it fully mission capable in two days says something."
The vehicle wasn't given an easy test run for its initial outing, as the DRAGON V was used during Company A's recent night air assault mission southeast of Baghdad.
Despite going over uneven terrain and drainage ditches and through heavily wooded areas, the vehicle performed exceptionally well, 1-15th Infantry Regiment soldiers said.
"It went really well," said Spc. James Jones, of Tyler, Texas, Headquarters Company, 1-15th Infantry Regiment, the vehicle's driver that night. "The vehicle handled the terrain fine. Nothing broke off. We couldn't have asked for better."
Hancock was pleased with the vehicle's first mission and sees potential for its use on the battlefield.
"It gives the commander a lot more assets on the battlefield," he said. "Instead of having to rely on relays, he can get live feeds. He can be at one spot and check on a unit 100 meters away in moments. He can gauge reactions on the battlefields as they happen and not have to hear it from miles away."
According to Hancock, the regiment plans to use the DRAGON V in future missions. He is excited about the role he and his fellow soldiers will play in upcoming operations.
"This is the first time a mechanized Army unit has engineered, built and deployed a vehicle like this," he said. "We are proud of what we've done. We feel like we have raised the bar for the Army."