Eyes in the sky

Eyes in the skyAs Guam Army National Guardsmen continue focusing on their Operation Enduring Freedom mission, they’re also enhancing a different skill.

About two dozen Guam Guardsmen will be certified to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle called a Raven after completing a civilian-sponsored training program. Taught by instructors whose company built the surveillance aircraft, the Guam soldiers welcomed the training.

Task Force Guam’s operations section picked participants from different companies to learn the Raven. Each Guam soldier must accumulate an ex-amount of operational hours that includes hand-launching the plane, which is like throwing something about the same weight of a basketball but cost about $35,000.

Jeremy Phillips, instructor and employee of EnrGies, Inc., is one of a half-dozen teachers who have taken Guam soldiers under their wings to get them officially certified. The four-pound Raven has a 4.5-foot wingspan and can fly “with an effective operational radius” of about six miles, Phillips explained. The $35,000 plane is durable and mounted with an advanced-technology video camera, but the entire system – featuring a tracking antenna and data monitor – is about a quarter of a million dollars.

“It’s a very advanced weapon system. It’s basically used for routine reconnaissance, convoy security or any type of aerial surveillance,” Phillips said. “The Guam soldiers are picking this up pretty well. They learn fast. This systems prevents soldiers from moving forward into unknown territory. They can easily launch this and see from above. This can save lives.”

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