By Spc. Gregory Argentieri
10th Press Camp Headquarters
BABIL PROVINCE, Iraq – An unmanned aircraft system’s maintenance team is similar to a driver’s pit crew; they may not always get accolades for their work, but success cannot be achieved without them.
For soldiers who maintain the Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System with the 66th Military Intelligence Company, 3rd Thunder Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, they know the job they do directly impacts the intelligence collection mission for their leadership.
“Our primary mission is to maintain the Shadow 200 Tactical UAS,” said Sgt. Kenneth Gulliver, maintenance crew chief, 66th MI Company, 3rd Sqdrn., 3rd ACR.
Gulliver said the maintenance soldiers have to be disciplined in their tasks and technically aware of the capabilities of the aircraft. They also need to be proficient computer technicians and able to work on multiple platforms.
“There is so much room for error,” said Gulliver. “If we make one mistake, the bird goes down.”
Because the Shadow Tactical UAS mission is a 24-hour operation, maintenance is critical, to ensure that an aircraft is always ready to fly.
“As everything is flying, we have certain standard maintenance operations that have to happen in order for us to maintain mission readiness,” said Gulliver. “Our job is to execute in a timely manner.
To accomplish this mission, the maintenance team is always on the job, working on the aircraft before and after each flight.”
During pre-flight inspections, the maintenance crew goes over the potential situations the Shadow may encounter while in the air, Gulliver said. They verify that all systems are working properly and that all the aircraft’s emergency safeguards are operational.
Every time a Shadow lands, the troops are back in action, conducting an inspection and performing maintenance on the aircraft. After the UAS logs a specified number of flight hours, the maintenance team performs another inspection and replaces various parts to ensure the aircraft can continue on with its mission.
To accomplish this task, every time, without fail takes teamwork and dedication, said 1st Lt. Jesus Gallardo, a platoon leader with the 66th MI Company, and a Tucson, Ariz., native.
For Pfc. Joseph M. Yahr, native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and UAS maintainer with the MI 66th MI Company, 3rd ACR, this type of mission is exactly what he hoped to do in the military.
“That’s the whole reason I joined the maintenance side of the Army,” said Yahr. “I wanted to ensure that someone’s there to fix it, to make sure everything gets done.”
This type of dedication is why they are successful, Gallardo said.
“They believe in the mission,” he said. “The maintenance crew is the backbone of what we do. They make this unit a success.”