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UAV operators put eyes in the sky

15 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. John M. McCall

Marines with Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment practiced aerial reconnaissance patrols here Mar. 25.

The Raven unmanned air vehicle is a small radio-controlled airplane that is used mainly for shooting reconnaissance photographs and videos that help plan routes and plot mission objectives.

“We’re preparing ourselves to do aerial recon in country,” said Lance Cpl. Tom Leavitt, 22, a UAV operator with Co. B from Las Vegas, Nev.  “These practice runs get us used to using the plane.”

The Raven UAV is an important tool used to gather information from the air. It can travel places where ground troops cannot and provide visibility from many different angles and heights during day and night.

“We put eyes wherever (Marines) need them; it’s like having eyes in the sky” said Lance Cpl. Curtis McCarty, 20, a UAV operator with Co. B from Stanwood, Wash.  “We can give patrols an idea of what to expect and (help) spot enemy personnel.”

Operating the Raven UAV properly takes a lot of practice, making this training very useful for UAV operators to sharpen their skills. 

“This training helps us get used to working with the planes,” said Lance Cpl. Adam Hemphill, a UAV operator with Co. B from Gering, Neb.  “Flying it gives us more experience and helps make it like muscle memory.”

Mojave Viper, the Marine Corps’ premier pre-deployment desert training exercise, affords Marines the opportunity to take part in simulation they can only get here.

“The training is better out here. It’s more realistic,” said Leavitt.  “We have to deal with a lot more factors.”

UAV operators are preparing themselves as much as possible while at Mojave Viper before they deploy to Afghanistan with the battalion later this year.

“There’s nothing that can prepare you for the real thing,” said Leavitt,  “but this training helps a lot.”