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Lance Cpl. Basil M. Callahan, a welder with Charlie Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, throws the Raven for it to take off during a system test in western Anbar province, Iraq, April 8. Several Marines from 2nd LAR learned to fly the Unmanned Air Vehicle when they arrived in Camp Korean Village, Iraq, to better serve their companies as UAV operators.

Photo by Cpl Ryan Tomlinson

2nd LAR welcomes Raven

12 Apr 2008 | Cpl Ryan Tomlinson

Flying through the sky like a ghost in the wind, a new tool is available to assist infantry Marines gather surveillance without being in danger.

Several Marines from 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance, Regimental Combat Team 5, recently volunteered to learn to be Raven Unmanned Air Vehicle operators, here.

The Raven can produce real-time video surveillance of the battlefield. The Marine controls the by using a remote with vision display and knobs like a video game device.

During the 10-day-course, a dozen Marines learned how to operate and troubleshoot every aspect of the system.

“The course was so easy because it was all hands on training,” said Cpl. Brandon J. Barnhart, a scout section leader with Charlie Company, 2nd LAR. “After two beginners flights, (I was) able to take-off, fly, navigate and land.”

The course was taught by a UAV specialist with the Marine Corps Community Service Commission. The Marines said they would train until each was efficient enough with the system to employ it in combat.

New operators with Charlie Co. debuted the flying object during an operation in western Anbar Province April 8. The operators test-flew the plane to demonstrate the true nature of its capabilities.

“The Raven could save the ground combat element a lot of trouble collecting surveillance,” said Cpl. Luis E. Piris-Santiago, a scout team leader and UAV operator with Charlie Co. “We could provide great imagery of what’s going on in that area without ever setting foot into it.”

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are not new to the military and have become easier to fly and control over the years.

“All I have to do is plot a grid coordinate and the plane does the rest,” said Piris-Santiago, 22, from Allentown, Pa. “It keeps us from sending out route reconnaissance missions because instead of us sending Marines into danger, we could just set a (Raven) up in a minute and be ready to go without the risk.”

Although the Marines know that this system is serious business, they are still able to find fun in them and enjoy the experience of flying it.

“The plane is a ton of fun,” said Piris-Santiago, as he inspected his plane before flight. “It makes me feel like a little kid again playing with cool toys.”