Soldiers from the 10th Engineer Battalion made history becoming the first U.S. military unit to fly a Shadow unmanned aircraft system in Poland.
The historic flight came as the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division is taking part in Exercise Anakonda 16, a Polish-led exercise taking place throughout Poland June 7-17. The exercise involves over 30,000 participants from 24 nations and supports assurance and deterrence measures by demonstrating Allied defense capabilities to deploy, mass and sustain combat power.
Sgt. Patrick Fain, an unmanned aircraft systems operator with the Shadow Platoon, Company D, 10th En. Bn., said being a part of the maiden Shadow flight in Poland was very important to the platoon.
“It’s a pretty big deal to us,” said Fain, a native of Casa Grande, Arizona. “It validates all the hard work we’ve being doing to get this done.”
The flight didn’t come without its challenges though, as the crew had to fight through communication issues and frequency requests.
Spc. John Larocco, another UAS operator with the Shadow Platoon and an Atlanta native, said they were able to work through those obstacles and have not had any issues since their first flight.
“We’re getting a lot of flight time,” said Larocco. “Once we got the first bird off ground it’s been very smooth.”
The Shadow platoon’s mission is to gather intelligence, conduct air reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting for the brigade.
“Support wise we’re the eyes in the sky,” stated Spc. Cadarrel Wilkins, another UAS operator in the Shadow Platoon from Dekalb, Mississippi. “We keep people safe by scouting ahead, that’s our job.”
For Anakonda, the Shadow Platoon has been flying missions in support of units from Albania, Bulgaria, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the United States.
“We’re here to support the brigade and the rest of our allies and partners as best as possible,” said Fain. “Our objective is to support all the other nations as they request and hopefully build some better relationships with them.”
Other than being a part of history, working with the multinational units has been the highlight of Anakonda for Wilkins.
“Just them being around and we’re getting to see how their Army works compared to ours,” said Wilkins. “It’s good to see those things. It’s good to build those relationships for the future.”
Wilkins added they hope to work with the Poles more in the future and integrate their UAS operations so they can provide even better aerial reconnaissance to the Soldiers on the ground.
“More than one eye is in the sky is always a good thing,” stated Wilkins.