Story by Sgt. Michael Sword
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Ever since U.S. Army Pfc. Steven Devito was a child, he remembers his father’s love for remote controlled airplanes. He also remembers when he decided to join the military.
Though the two events weren’t related, they eventually came together as Devito now finds himself in Afghanistan as a soldier with B Company, 173rd Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, working on the military’s version of the remote-controlled airplane: the RQ-7B Shadow.
“From the moment I can remember anything, my dad has always had remote-controlled planes,” said the 23-year-old Devito, a native of Houston. “I’ve always loved aircraft, anything that flies.”
When Devito was 10, a neighbor’s son who was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division came home on leave. While he was still a young child, he remembers it as the moment he knew military service was in his plan.
“He came home on leave, I talked to him and it sounded like something I would love,” he said. “He inspired me. It’s something that has stuck with me and I’ve always wanted to be in the military since then.”
Years after graduating from Mayde Creek High School in 2007, Devito held some jobs but nothing serious. Eventually growing tired of it, he moved to Miami to be around family and joined his cousin putting up hurricane shutters, but his inspiration to serve never left him.
“It’s something I always wanted to do, to do the patriotic thing, serve my country, see the world and see what else was in the world other than Texas and Miami, so I decided that it was the best time,” he said.
So, Devito went to see a U.S. Army recruiter when he discovered a then-relatively new military occupational specialty, Unmanned Aircraft System Maintainer. Before 2010, maintaining the Army’s growing fleet of unmanned aircraft fell as an additional duty to other mechanics or technicians. As the Army increased the use of the platform, the new MOS was created and immediately caught Devito’s eye.
“When my recruiter showed me this MOS, I said sounds like something I would really enjoy,” he said.
May 16, 2011, Devito arrived at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and after successful graduation from basic combat training, he began a 17-week Advanced Individual Training course at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
“We learn everything,” he said. “Servicing, troubleshooting, maintenance, theory of flight, how engines work – anything involved in the system.”
Now deployed to eastern Afghanistan, Devito and the crew he works with are responsible for the maintenance of several Shadow aircraft, and the longer he’s on the ground, the more he’s learning.
“They teach you what they can at the school house, but this is really where I’ve learned what I need to know, the tricks of the trade,” he said.
Sometimes the job can be tough, even monotonous, but Devito still enjoys himself, and knows that it is an important piece in a much larger machine.
“Knowing that what we do helps the (UAV) operators support the troops on the ground, that were supplying them information, knowing that were being a part of something bigger, I love doing my job,” he said.
Devito is not the only one that enjoys his job either. In addition to his father’s love of RC planes, his uncle is a fan of Devito’s chosen profession.
“My uncle was ecstatic,” he said. “He was in Vietnam and he used to work on Hueys, so he loves when I come home and can tell him about what I do.”
When he enlisted, Devito signed a six-year contract for his MOS. He plans on extending his stint with the 173rd ABCT, attending airborne school and less than two years into his six, is already looking ahead at his next step in the Army.
“Right now I’m okay with where I am,” he said. “But I have thought about maybe being an operator and being trained on everything.”
“System knowledge is everything in this MOS, the more you know, the more you can do,” he added.
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