FORT POLK — In today’s Army, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are a vital asset to the warfighters on the ground by providing real-time surveillance of the battlespace enabling commanders to make calculated decisions.

Specifically, the RQ-7Bv2 Shadow, an unmanned tactical reconnaissance aerial system capable of displaying full motion video (FMV), is a key component to the success of ground operations during Joint Readiness Training Center rotations.  Shadow provides early warning to forward reconnaissance elements, creates actionable intelligence through detailed information, and assists visual and radio sustainment across the battlefield.  

Shadow operators and maintainers across the Army train relentlessly to high standards to maintain mission readiness and successfully support the engagement and destruction of the enemy. Shadow platoons are expected to reach 600 flight hours each fiscal year resulting in a more effective UAS Soldier. 

Fort Polk’s UAS Shadow Platoon, Delta Company, 317th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, exceeded the standard by amassing 706 hours for fiscal year 2019, a feat that no other individual Shadow platoon in the Army has achieved in a garrison environment. 

 “Since we do our job more than anyone else in the Army, we are able to diagnose and troubleshoot problems quickly minimizing down time,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Slothower, UAS operations technician.

The UAS Shadow Platoon not only supports 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div’s mission, but also works in tandem with the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment “Geronimos” — the JRTC OPFOR. In fiscal year 2019, the UAS Shadow Platoon supported 10 JRTC rotations accumulating 426 hours of flight time equating to more realistic training for participating units. 

The opportunity to support JRTC rotations allows operators and maintainers to hone their skills and effectively increase lethality.  

 “Maximizing flight hours has a direct correlation between capability and experience … the more training UAS operators and maintainers receive, the more lethal they become,” Slothower said.

The Shadow Platoon also actively supports combined arms live fire exercises and offers One System Remote Viewing Terminal classes to assist 3rd BCT’s overall readiness.

The Shadow Platoon seeks to exceed the 706 flight hour record for fiscal year 2020 by supporting JRTC rotations, brigade exercises and through training progression flights. 

 “When it’s time to fly, you fly,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Grant Black, UAS operations officer said. “Expectations are high, the operation tempo is high, and to ensure the mission gets done effectively, we have to take advantage of every opportunity we can to train.”

The UAS Platoon held a UAS Night Oct. 4 to close out fiscal year 2019 and honor UAS operators and maintainers for their hard work, dedication and accomplishments throughout the year.