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Unseen Eye Keeps Watch Over Soldiers in Afghanistan

By Army Pfc. Andrya Hill
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, June 5, 2009 – An unseen 14-foot guardian patrols eastern Afghanistan day and night, searching for enemies who would wreak havoc on the country.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nicholas Jones, Sgt. Mitchell Godwin and Staff Sgt. Joseph Pospesel inspect an unmanned aerial vehicle in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, June 3, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Andrya Hill

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, has cameras that function as aerial eyes for the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.

The UAVs are controlled from the ground by a small group of paratroopers from the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

“We do everything from battle-damage assessment to convoy route clearance, but our main mission over here is to provide situational awareness for battlefield commanders,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Nicholas Jones, a UAV technician who also serves as the platoon leader. In the three months the UAV platoon has been operating, Jones said, the Shadow has provided the necessary advantage for mission accomplishment on several occasions.

“The Baki Kheyl District Center called and said they were receiving fire,” he said. “We immediately scanned over to them, found the guys firing at them, and followed them all the way back to their safe house.”

Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bolin, a UAV operator, told a similar success story.

“A couple weeks ago, [Forward Operating Base Sharana] came under a mortar attack,” he said. “We spotted some guys to the north, and used the UAV to positively identify them and stay on them, so the commanders [could] pick them up or put fire on them.”

Regardless of the challenges, the UAV platoon works around the clock to assure that the soldiers of 4-25th are protected. From the operators who fly the aircraft and observe the footage to the maintainers who keep them up and running, the brigade can rest assured that a Shadow will provide security and support from above.

(Army Pfc. Andrya Hill serves with the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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