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Alaska soldiers take flight at YPG
YUMA PROVING GROUND — An Army unit from Alaska will be flying an unmanned aerial vehicle at one of the many ranges at Yuma Proving Ground as part of its training for an upcoming deployment later this year.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nick Jones, from the 4th Brigade, Airborne, 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Richardson, Alaska, the unit is undergoing two weeks of training on the Shadow to maintain flight certification.
“It is a pretty big train-up for the unit,” Jones said. “It is the last major flight operation before our deployment.”
The Shadow, an unmanned aerial vehicle launched from a trailer-mounted catapult that propels it to a remarkably fast speed in a very short period of time, is a surveillance platform that provides real-time imagery of geographic areas to soldiers on their missions. It carries an electro-optical and infrared camera, which provides streaming video signal to ground control centers during day or night.
As part of their training, the soldiers set up the ground control centers it takes to fly the Shadow at a specific range, along with an array of parabolic dishes and antennas. In addition to launching, landing and maintaining the vehicles, Jones said they plan to keep one flying at all times.
The soldiers will put their training to work when they deploy to Afghanistan.
Jones explained that the unit couldn’t train in Alaska this time of year due to the cold weather. Making sure the soldiers were trained prior to their deployment was a top priority for the unit’s commander.
“If we are not ready to do our job when we get there, it hurts everybody,” Jones said. “The troops on the ground are the ones we support. Without us doing our job well, they won’t be able to do theirs well.”
Had the unit not been able to come train at YPG, Jones said they would have had to spend their first few weeks in Afghanistan doing their training, instead of supporting missions.
Jones explained that had the unit not been able to come to YPG for training, its commander was going to send them somewhere to get it.
Mark Schauer, of the YPG public affairs office, said that while YPG is the country’s premier test facility, it is also still an Army base, a place where soldiers can come to conduct their training.
YPG Test Officer Luis Parada has been working with the unit during its training, helping to coordinate its testing with any other tests that may be happening in the area.
“I give them updates of other operations going on at other ranges, which helps them know when they can fly and where,” Parada said. “Even with all the airspace we have out here, we can have many other tests going on at the same time in other areas.”
Parada added that the Shadow was originally tested at YPG many years ago when it was first developed, and continues to be to this day.
“Just like everything, as time goes on, when new technology is available it is integrated and added to the system.”
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854.