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Minnesota National Guard
Camp Ripley opens new facility for unmanned aircraft

Minnesota National Guard The Minnesota National Guard celebrated the opening of a new facility for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, May 17, 2013, at Camp Ripley Training Center

The facility provides a centralized location for Service members to train on the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in combat to gather valuable intelligence The 13,000 square-foot building will house both Shadow and Raven Unmanned Aircraft Systems and simulators designed to provide realistic training scenarios

Unmanned aircraft provide Service members overseas with an "eye in the skies" to obtain a picture of the battlefield without the added risk of sending personnel or manned aircraft to gather intelligence

"We don't have to send convoys We don't have to send Soldiers," said Staff Sgt Anna Zoller "We can go look at main supply routes and we can tell the commander what we need to in order to adjust his mission"

After more than a decade of conflict Unmanned Aircraft Systems have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been embedded into small units, allowing commanders on the ground the flexibility to observe enemy activity in real time

"As a veteran of the Iraq war, I can tell you from firsthand experience that I relied greatly on this tool to observe and maintain a 360-degree vigil around Camp Taji where I was stationed my first deployment and around my convoy escort team my second," said Col Scott St Sauver, Camp Ripley post commander

Members of Company A, 1st Brigade, 34th Division Brigade Special Troops Battalion have a unique mission requiring extensive training that keeps them busy on their monthly drill weekends Soldiers complete an initial six months of training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz, as well as follow-on training at the unit to become proficient with the systems It takes hard work and focus to complete all the training requirements in a two-day drill weekend

"This stuff is very technical," said Capt Eric Lewanski, commander of Company A "We have to follow a lot of different flight regulations, FAA requirements and training requirements It's not just showing up and digging foxholes"

"Alpha Company really does provide the eyes and ears of the brigade combat team," said Lewanski

The Shadow and Raven unmanned aircraft are equipped with cameras only and do not contain a weapons system Service members will conduct training flights with the aircraft only in the restricted airspace located on the military installation of Camp Ripley

The fact that this cutting-edge aviation facility will be located just miles from the hometown of aviation legend Charles Lindbergh was not lost on those gathered for the facility's grand opening Aviation research has advanced dramatically since that day nearly 90 years ago when Lindbergh made his historical flight across the Atlantic

"This technology you see before you today - this natural progression of aviation research that Lucky Lindy encouraged us to do - ultimately saves taxpayer dollars and, more importantly, saves the lives of our service men and women," said St Sauver

May 17, 2013
Photos and story by Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

Event video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIBoT57y0Wg

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