FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 28, 2007) - When people think of aircraft in Iraq, many imagine fighter jets and helicopters, but many don't know about a smaller and equally important aircraft in use today.

Shadow 200 RQ-7B unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs are flown over the skies of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division area of operations to provide safety for Soldiers on the ground.

Flown by the UAV Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, the Shadow is a small and lightweight aircraft, coming in at a little over 11 feet, with a gasoline engine that can run for about four hours.

"Our mission while in Iraq is to provide the best detailed real-time footage to the troops on the ground, so as to help them in their mission, whether it's a cordon, raid or patrol on the streets of Baghdad," said Sgt. Christopher Herrmann, standardization officer with Company A, 4-3 BSTB.

Since the brigade has been in Iraq, the UAV Soldiers have accumulated over 700 hours in flight time, he added.

The UAVs on Kalsu, commonly used for route reconnaissance, raid over-watch and searches, launch continuously to support the ground units outside of the base.

Sgt. Herrmann said the UAV personnel are the eyes for the troops when they cannot see something and are used for anything the battle captain wishes to look at on the ground.

Although some may think it is easy to fly UAVs, the biggest mistake made is not knowing their limitations.

"Anyone can fly these, but it takes someone who understands the system and is knowledgeable to fly these to their fullest capabilities," Sgt. Herrmann said.

After every Shadow flight, Soldiers inspect the aircraft to ensure it will be ready for its next flight.

"After it comes in, we conduct a PMD, a preventive maintenance daily," said Spc. Christine Ahhing, with the 4-3 BSTB." We make sure nothing is torn, broken or not functional."

In a nutshell, increasing situational awareness is the greatest advantage of the UAVs, Sgt. Herrmann said. "We give them eyes where theirs cannot see."

(Pfc. Amanda McBride serves with 4th BCT, 3rd Inf. Div. Public Affairs)