Story by SSG Kelvin Green on 08/30/2019FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Arkansas soldiers merged drone surveillance into a multi- component combined arms live fire exercise (CALFEX) merged with drone surveillance at the Waynesville Airfield here on June 10, 2019.
Composed of various Department of Defense branches and also a number of units from both the state of Arkansas and Missouri, the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade set out on a mission of merging a live fire exercise and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance. The aerial drone assistance was provided by Detachment 1 Delta Company 239th Brigade Engineer Battalion, which is part of Arkansas's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The exercise was the first of its kind to be carried out over Fort Leonard Wood airspace, and required a number of agencies working closely together to bring the idea to fruition.
"This is an entirely new area that we're operating in, where no Shadow AAR-Q17 has ever flown on this installation, so the fact that we were able to launch, operate and land the aircraft safely was a huge success for the 239th BEB, as well as giving the 110th MEB the capability to pull our feeds from the drone to gather the information they need," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Warren Sherman, of Det 1 D Co 239th BEB.
"The 39th IBCT here in Missouri that is aligned with the 110th MEB through training provided information about the capabilities of the 239th BEB and how they would be an asset in assisting caring out this training mission," said CW2 Sherman.
"The overall success of the mission will be when we're able to give them the intelligence surveillance that they want while the live fire is still in progress."
Possibly the most crucial part of the planning process was the coordination and approval of the federal Aviation Administration, which under unique circumstances is shared with a civilian airfield located on a military installation. Tasked with the first step of bringing this idea to life was Air traffic Control Chief and Airspace Officer for Fort Leonard Wood, Jose Palasi, who worked closely with Department of the Army Representative, Sgt. 1st. Class Raymond Davis as the military point of contact that would provide the details of how the exercise would be executed.
"The process of gaining special permission to fly in a restricted airspace required the plans to be laid out down to the turns the drone would make during the exercise," said Bryan Rush, Assistant Airspace Manager on Fort Leonard Wood.
"We did not cut any corners in the planning process, which was incredibly detailed and very well thought out. I take great pride in helping a mission be accomplished."
As the first to successfully coordinate a drone surveillance flight with a combined live fire exercise on Fort Leonard Wood, those who played a part in it accomplished something that can be used in a variety of ways in relation to future missions for themselves but can also be passed on to others considering similar exercises.
"The process we went through to get the mission approved, the problems that were identified and solved, in regards to logistics and airspace will help others in planning a similar exercise in the future because of the information we will be able to share from this exercise," said Rush.
"Just knowing that something like this is possible instead of wondering whether or not we can actually carry it out gives a lot more confidence in future missions to not only myself but also my soldiers and it's a good feeling," said CW3 Sherman.