By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 1, 2008 - Troops on the ground in Iraq have an "eye in the sky," thanks to soldiers like Army Spc. Rodolfo Delatorre in the 4th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade, who launches, recovers and maintains the Shadow unmanned aerial system.
Delatorre, who serves with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, hails from Fresno, Calif.
"I refuel, add oil, change spark plugs and change filters," he said. "I perform services on the Shadow to ensure it stays in the air."
Delatorre is attached from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team as a member of the "Iron Eagle" company, which launches and recovers the Shadow surveillance vehicles day and night.
Shadow maintainers perform takeoff and landing procedures from their facility, using a pneumatic launcher for takeoffs. The soldiers recover the vehicles by using an arresting hook and cable system similar to the ones used on aircraft carriers.
To keep the fleet of surveillance aircraft in the air, maintenance, quality control and production control are of high priority. Double- and triple-checking all maintenance procedures is commonplace.
"Once one is launched, there is another one coming down. Once it has landed, we do maintenance on it," Delatorre said. "I like this job because it is a lot of hands-on. I like to work with my hands. It gives me a lot of satisfaction when everything is launching well and there are no problems with the UAS."
The Shadow provides commanders on the ground the ability to see the entire battlefield with its high-tech cameras and communications equipment. Since the inception of unmanned surveillance aircraft more than 10 years ago, the "eyes in the sky" have become an integral part of the modern battlefield. Commanders have come to depend on the Shadow's ability to give them surveillance footage from the sky; maintainers here ensure the "overhead edge" continues on the battlefield for Multinational Division Baghdad troops.
"His job is extremely important to the overall mission," said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Lovell, Delatorre's supervisor at the UAS company. "We have a high [operational tempo], and if it wasn't for guys like Delatorre, we couldn't support the overhead mission for MND-B.
"He is a stellar soldier," he continued, "and I tell other soldiers to emulate him. He is one of those soldiers who make my job a lot easier."