FORT DEVENS, Mass --
A group of unmanned aerial vehicle operators and support personnel from Headquarters Company, 25th Marine Regiment and 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment ventured out into a snowy morning March 9 to conduct practice flights at Devens Reserve Forces Training Area. The flights mark the first time UAVs have been employed by the regiment.
The training event’s primary goal was to sustain the Marines’ knowledge of procedures and techniques learned at UAV operator’s school in Camp Lejeune, N.C. The RQ-11B, or Raven B, is the only UAV currently used by the regiment. The hand-launched, remote-controlled aircraft is man-portable, allowing for easier intelligence gathering for units.
“It adds capability to our combat operations center by providing low-altitude surveillance and allows us to gather intelligence organically with quicker acquisition of information, instead of relying on a higher command resource,” said Maj. Joshua Phares, inspector-instructor, Headquarters Company, 25th Marine Regiment.
The regiment spent the past 18 months training and certifying operators through formal schools and fielding the UAVs. Staff Sgt. Ryan Cherhoniak, the radio chief for 25th Marine Regiment, took the two-week operator’s course at Camp Lejeune in October 2012 and served as the range’s officer-in-charge during this training evolution. Cherhoniak said that five operators were able to practice surveillance techniques, UAV operations checks and transferring control of a UAV between operators mid-flight – techniques needed to maintain their certification.
During the event, operators successfully conducted five launches and recoveries of the Raven B. Cherhoniak added that the training exercise’s purpose was two-fold – to provide operators with flight hours and to showcase the UAV’s surveillance potential for field operations. He said that UAVs could be as effective at surveillance as a patrol of infantry Marines.
“It definitely benefits the Reserve unit because it’s an asset the unit never had before,” said Cherhoniak.
Phares said that while active-duty units have used UAVs for years, this is the first year these resources were made available to Reserve units.
“It’s just another opportunity for the Marines to close the gap between Reserve unit capabilities and active-duty unit capabilities,” said Phares. “It’s a bonus that adds value to a Reserve unit.”
Phares said that further support efforts are planned for exercise African Lion in April and the regimental-level annual training exercise, Heavy Metal, in June.