Spc. Ronald M. Deschinny, an olive-drab green mechanical box in his hands, waits for the signal.
More than 100 feet in front of him, an unmanned aerial vehicle sits at the foot of a ramp, prepared for liftoff.
When the tower gives the command, Deschinny, an unmanned aircraft systems repairer with Company B, 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, flips a switch to send the Shadow into the great blue yonder.
Deschinny and other UAV operators and systems repairers with Company B, 4-3 BSTB, flew their units’ intelligence assets — with new software upgrades — for the first time since redeploying from Iraq in June.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Randy K. Haddox, the unmanned aircraft systems technician for 4-3 BSTB, said that while most of his soldiers operated the Shadow in combat, becoming familiar with the changes the software upgrades present for UAV operation is vitally important.
“There are certain steps now in the checklist that (the soldiers) can’t accomplish unless they know what the software upgrades are and what they do for us in the system,” Haddox said. “It’s just like any other job in the Army except for the difference … (that) … aviation has come down with mandated standards that we have to abide by in order to stay current.”
Haddox, who has worked with UAVs since 1999, has deployed the birds throughout four combat tours. He said his unit’s UAV operators will be flying three to five hours a day, five days a week, to gain and sustain proficiency.