By Capt. Joshua B. Good, 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade
FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 27, 2018) – With the precision snip of a ribbon by a drone, the 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, opened its new small unmanned aerial system (SUAS) course facility June 11.
The former convenience store at Camp Cornett will make life more convenient for students and instructors, says Sgt. 1st Class Hilario Dominguez, the lead instructor for the class.
“It gives our course a sense of permanence,” Dominguez said of the new facility.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Barta, 3-16 commander, presided over the SUAS building opening.
“This building represents an incredible new opportunity to the small unmanned aerial system course,” said Barta. “For several years now it was operating in a small cramped classroom insufficient to meet program instruction requirements. Thanks to the work many on the squadron staff, the 316th Brigade S4 shop, and the garrison Directorate of Public Works and Network Enterprise Center, we were able to turn the vacant structure into a vibrant classroom, training leaders to make the Army better.
“Unmanned aerial systems are the way the future,” continued Barta. “And this new school can grow to become the center for aerial robotics in conjunction with the Columbus community through a partnership with industry and education.”
Staff Sgt. Arturo Saucedo flew the remote-controlled quad-copter into a pair of red and white ribbons, slicing the paper in half. Precision flying is what Saucedo teaches the 10 or so students who attend each course. He tells his students to think of the small helicopters as a way to chase down armed enemy soldiers.
“Instead of chasing him through a booby hole, you just track him,” he said. “Now you have a grid of his location and you can do what you need to do.”
Instructors teach Raven and Puma fixed-wing remote-controlled drones and a variety of helicopters, including the tiny InstantEye copter, which flies as quietly as a hummingbird.
The students who pass SUAS are typically infantrymen and cavalry scouts who go back to their units to be a brigade or battalion-level master trainers, Dominguez said. Dominguez said certifying experts build trust and helps company and troop-level commanders get over the fear of losing drones because they mistrust their drone pilots’ skills.
Dominguez has expanded his course to co-train with basic trainees so they can become familiar with drones before they show up to their units. During a recent field exercise, the SUAS students showed the trainees how the drones fly and how to describe drones if they see one flying over their formation.
Capt. Sean Minton, commander of the D Company, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, said his recruits learn how to fill out a seven-line report when they spot a drone and send the information to higher headquarters by radio. Drill instructors also teach the trainees how to hide from an enemy drone or disperse to avoid mass casualties from drone-directed field artillery.
“Our enemies have drones now,” Minton said. “And we don’t always own the air.”