Face of Defense: Marine Trains With Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Keenan Zelazoski
1st Marine Logistics Group

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Feb. 10, 2014 – Because part of being a Marine is finding ways to improve unit effectiveness and efficiency, most units have training noncommissioned officers who find beneficial courses and classes for their subordinates and peers.

Marine Corps Sgt. Cynthia Zermeno, training NCO with 1st Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, recently participated in an unmanned aerial vehicle course here.

The purpose of this training is to familiarize Marines and sailors with the knowledge and equipment necessary to operate UAVs, which are remotely controlled and are used for general surveillance and reconnaissance.

“Not many people know about these courses,” said Zermeno, a Torrance, Calif., native. “As the training NCO, I want to find out what types of courses are available for my Marines and how each course can benefit them, and this one would be useful for everyone.”

In the course’s first three days, students learn how to work with the systems that control the UAVs, learning vital skills such as plotting a course and how to launch and land the systems. After they learn the basics, they start practical application. Flying the UAVs is an art that requires practice.

“A lot of people in a logistics unit might not see the benefits of these skills,” said Bill Peek, the senior instructor for the Remote Audio Visual Engagement Network course. “The capabilities of a UAV are limited only to battery life and your imagination.”

With a UAV, Marines and sailors conducting convoy operations can silently observe potential hazards up to a few miles away on their planned route prior to leaving friendly lines. During the course, students also train to conduct covert operations and silent surveillance.

“Battle damage assessment is important as well,” said Peek. “Being able to get eyes on an objective — without actually having to send a person into a dangerous area that you don’t know much about — is a huge asset to have in an expeditionary environment.”

Marines prepare for the worst-case scenario, Zermeno said, noting that they often encounter unexpected situations while deployed. This training provides an additional life-saving skill to take with them overseas, she added.

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