Army Sgt. Matthew Hair from the 594th Transportation Company,
holds the RQ-11 Raven in the air during function checks of the
system on Feb. 22, 2012. The Raven is used to video record the possible burying of
IEDs and insurgent activity. Hair participated in a class to give
soldiers more experience with the system. Photo by Army Sgt. Laura Bonano
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (2/27/20120 — The students ran through
a list of function checks on a small remote controlled plane while
another soldier held it to his chest, making sure the different
elements responded to commands given through a computer ten feet
The tiny propeller whirled faster and faster while the
operator held it high above his head.
launch,” he yelled before sending the plane flying.
a few feet into the air and then instantaneously, the nose dipped
down towards the ground instead of gaining altitude.
plane plowed headfirst into the ground with a crash.
and other odd pieces flew off in different directions as people
could be heard gasping and chuckling.
Fortunately, the Raven
was designed to crash land.
Troops from the 594th
Transportation Company had a chance to fly the RQ-11 Raven, an
unmanned aerial vehicle, Feb. 22, aboard Camp Leatherneck,
Afghanistan as part of hands-on training.
quickly got to work putting the parts back together to try again.
Three heads crowded in close to look at a computer screen
encased in a black shade to block the blinding sun out on the UAV
range. Data needed to be entered into the portable laptop for the
global positioning function of the program.
slightly larger than an RC toy rested on the ground waiting for the
second launch attempt by Sgt. Matthew Hair, a member of the 594th TC
and native of Sumter, S.C.
The system's main function is to gather
intelligence using a mounted video camera to record
surveillance of possible threats during convoys. Hair and
other members of the unit previously completed a weeklong
class to become familiar with the Raven and how to use it.
Hair said the training was important because the
unit did not have many people experienced the system.
Once again, Hair prepared to send the Raven into the
air. He made sure to take a few extra running steps, heaving
the plane forcefully into the air and watched it gracefully
soar off, gaining altitude.
“Yes!” Hair shouted as
the plane flew out of view.
“It's a very versatile
aircraft, pretty stealthy and quiet,” said Hair. Sometimes
observers did not know where the plane was because it made
very little noise as it circled in the air.
minutes later, the aircraft roughly landed again so someone
else could practice flying it.
It is important for
the students to have the skills to use the system because
their job requires traveling in convoys that are targeted by
improvised explosive devices, said Sgt. Steven McQueen.
McQueen, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the
range, said the Raven directly combats IEDs by giving troops
eyes on the roads where personnel cannot directly see.
One soldier said he especially wanted to come out to the
range and see how the system works. He had an interest in
all things remote controlled.
“I've done RC's on the
civilian side with cars and boats, but never with
airplanes,” said Staff Sgt. Walter Lopez-Ortiz, a heavy
wheel operator and native of Dorado, Puerto Rico. He said
the Raven was essential to missions, but also fun to learn
“I haven't flown it yet, but I'm gonna' get
my chance,” said Lopez.
Even though he did not attend
the class prior to the range, Lopez expertly helped to put
the aircraft back together after the jarring landings.
“I have two boats waiting for me right now back home,”
said Lopez. He also mentions the possibility of getting an
airplane next. He said he hopes to attend the class in the
Lopez said every unit that goes on convoys
should train their soldiers on the Raven. He said if units
only have one designated operator, that person might not be
on the convoy when the enemy is lurking.
“If we don't
have the Raven out there watching out for us, they can be
planting IEDs and waiting for us to just roll over one,”
By Army Sgt. Laura Bonano
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