AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq -- While it has no onboard pilot, its small frame carries a high-performance camera that provides instant tactical information to ground troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle flown by Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), requires the same support as other Marine aircraft to successfully carry out their mission of supporting Coalition Forces.
Marines in different work sections throughout the unit are specifically tailored to perform a multitude of tasks that ensure the intelligence-gathering UAV gets airborne daily.
“We’re set up pretty much like any other aviation squadron,” said Master Sgt. Darryl L. Shaw, the Watchdogs maintenance chief and Quincey, Fla., native. “We have maintenance, administration and quality assurance sections. Their responsibilities are pretty much the same as any other aviation squadron. The sections are just smaller than a normal squadron that might have 30 or 40 Marines in a section. We have a dozen.”
The Watchdogs exceed their fellow squadrons in personnel in its operations and intelligence sections, where dozens of Marines are responsible for the flying and the analysis of the information recorded by the UAV’s camera.
“As an internal operator, I fly the airplane, navigating it to support the ground units,” said Lance Cpl. Gabriel F. Acevedo, a Yonkers, N.Y., native. “I also handle the payload side, which is operating the camera. It’s like flying a remote control airplane. You just fly around or set it up to orbit. We can even stay directly above a hole in a building and see what’s inside.”
The UAV’s ability to successfully rocket into the sky during takeoff is not solely due to the expert operators controlling it. The Watchdog’s maintenance Marines spend hours each day inspecting and repairing the small aircraft.
“The avionics Marines are responsible for anything electronic on the aircraft,” said Cpl. Jon M. Chaney, the avionics section noncommissioned officer-in-charge and Yukon, Okla., native. “We handle all onboard communications equipment that is used to control it. It’s mostly simple work -- repairing connections and wires. Most of the work is a result of moisture damaging the electronics, which gets worse now that we are in the rainy season.”
With the avionics Marines handling the internal electronic components of the aircraft, the Watchdog’s UAV mechanics take charge of maintaining the engine and external aircraft components.
“We work on everything but the electronics to include the wheels, engine and ailerons,” said Lance Cpl. Michael A. Diaz, a UAV mechanic and Camp Lejeune, N. C., native. “We always check out the aircraft after every flight, making sure it’s good to go.”
That electricity VMU-1 relies on to make their mission happen is provided by Marine electricians organic to the squadron.
“We work on the generators, keeping everything on the flight line running and most importantly, the work centers,” said Pfc. Brent E. Wood, an electrician and Modesto, Calif., native. “We run all the squadron buildings internal wiring and work on the air conditioners, which are needed to keep the sensitive electronics we use cool.”
The work done by the operations, avionics and other work sections within the squadron keep the unrelenting task of delivering lifesaving information to ground forces incessant as the war on terrorism continues.
Disclaimer -- Photos associated with the article can be found at the following links:
1 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611371559
2 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611371716
3 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611371420
4 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611371828
5 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611371943
6 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611372056
7 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/20061137227
8 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611372325