KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Task Force Spartan), 10th Mountain Division, have been taking the lead in operations, both on the ground and in the air, in southern Afghanistan for more than 11 months.
The Unmanned Aerial Surveillance, or UAS, Platoon of B Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, is setting the example for all other UAS platoons in Kandahar Province with more than 5,000 accumulated flight hours.
“The TF Spartan UAS Platoon currently holds the record in flights and combat hours in the Regional Command-South area of operations,” said Warrant Officer Marylyn Payano, UAS Platoon leader. “The Soldiers hit the ground running and will not stop until the mission is complete. From April 2011 until now, the Shadow Platoon flew a total of 5,060 combat hours supporting a total of 1,170 brigade- and battalion-level missions in support of Task Force Spartan.”
The UAS Platoon has been functioning at full capacity throughout the deployment, despite the fact that it has not always had a full staff.
The platoon provides the brigade with 22 hours a day of real coverage with only 10 aircraft operators and four RQ-7B Shadow-200 systems.
“We pretty much do it all. We provide full-motion video or still photos,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dominick Simione, UAS Platoon sergeant.
The coverage that the UAS Platoon can provide to commanders is critical to the success of Soldiers on the ground, so it is always in high demand. The Shadow provides units on the ground the advantage of an aerial view of enemy activity and the ability to monitor insurgent actions without risking Soldiers or resources.
“It was quite a challenge to be able to uphold the brigade’s demands, but this platoon was up for the challenge and pushed forward,” Payano said.
The UAS Platoon flies the aircraft TF Spartan requires on an almost daily basis. The only reason the Shadow drone will not fly is inclement weather. The Soldiers work tirelessly to help monitor the battlefield in almost every operation that has been conducted for the past 11 months.
It is an operator’s job to fly the aircraft and monitor the battlefield for TF Spartan, but the platoon also has UAS maintainers who work to keep the equipment mission ready at all times.
“Everybody has to do their part, so I am just happy to do my part,” said Spc. Daniel Burt, a UAS maintainer in B Company, 3rd BSTB.
TF Spartan UAS Platoon members are currently training their replacements from 82nd Airborne Division, but they will continue to fly their aircraft until the unit redeploys to Fort Drum, N.Y.