South Jersey veteran is key to drone research

Steve Iaquinto Jr. is Sunhillo Corp.'s director of operations and program management. "I'm seeing through what I started" as an Army National Guard captain in Afghanistan, he says.
Steve Iaquinto Jr. is Sunhillo Corp.’s director of operations and program management. “I’m seeing through what I started” as an Army National Guard captain in Afghanistan, he says. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)

Qari Nazar Gul was an elusive target. The top-level Taliban commander rarely left Pakistan for operations in Afghanistan. He dispatched couriers and ordered attacks from afar.

Gul knew there was an eye in the sky and did not want to take a chance. In 2010, the eye belonged to Capt. Steve Iaquinto Jr., a targeting officer in charge of four aerial drones that searched for Taliban fighters in four provinces north of Kabul.

The New Jersey Army National Guard officer collected intelligence on enemy activities, then planned combat ground operations that resulted in a half-dozen kills and more than 30 arrests, including that of Gul’s nephew.

Three years later, the wily Taliban commander is still being sought, and Iaquinto is still working with drones – or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – this time in the civilian world with a far different mission that could give the economy a shot in the arm.

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