MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- It’s an eye in the sky and an enemy to the insurgency. It provides live video to spot those who wish to do harm, and alert those walking into it. It’s a machine with the ability to prevent casualties and assist in defeating those who cause them. It assists in the training of Marines preparing to deploy, and most importantly, helps those who already are.
It is the unmanned aerial vehicle that helps Marines several different ways in the fight against terrorism.
Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 assisted 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, with Mojave Viper training July 13, launching the UAV Pioneer RQ-2B from an airfield just south of Camp Wilson to collect video image to spot role playing insurgents.
“The purpose of the UAV is to perform battlefield reconnaissance and observation, artillery targeting, control of air support, battle damage assessment, and search and rescue,” said Staff Sgt. Abelardo Platas, Air Crew Training staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
While the vehicle itself has no pilot, several Marines are involved to keep it flying and doing its job.
There is a plane captain who is the mechanic, a mission commander who makes sure we are cleared to go down all the ranges and communicates with the control tower and Bearmat [range control], said Platas. “There’s the external pilot in charge of launching and landing the aircraft. Once the aircraft goes down range the internal pilot takes control of the UAV. There is also a payload operator in the ground control station.”
Flying the UAV not only benefits units training, but Marines with VMU-1.
“It’s good practice for everyone to come out and set up, the technicians, communications and maintenance,” said Cpl. Michael Smith, internal pilot. “It’s also a good chance for the pilots to get in some practice.”
And for external pilots, practice can make a difference.
“The difficult part of flying would probably be the landing,” said Cpl. Lee Hernandez, external pilot. “Unlike in manned aviation, we are not inside of the plane, so we have to fly the plane in weird angles and there are a lot of judgment calls that have to be made.”
UAV’s play a crucial role in the war on terrorism and the Marine Corps has only two VMUs. While Marines are not overseas using their skills, it proves useful to hone them here in the states. Helping out in the war on terrorism and being part of VMU-1 leaves the Marines proud and honored to be a part of it.
“It feels good to be in control of the aircraft, especially when we are flying in Iraq in support of a unit doing a mission,’ said Lance Cpl. Gabriel Acevedo, internal pilot.
“We’re here to deploy with different units and provide them with the information they need to raid the house they couldn’t see over the hill,” said Smith.
Although the training support they provide here is important to the Mojave Viper training exercise, the service they provide overseas is vital to fight the war on terrorism.
The unit will continue training and supporting training until it deploys later this summer.