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UAS career track expected to swell

Feb. 3, 2013 - 10:24AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 3, 2013 - 10:24AM  |  
The Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle is one in a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle is one in a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles. ()

The expansion of the Army's unmanned aerial vehicle program provides some new career opportunities for soldiers.

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The expansion of the Army's unmanned aerial vehicle program provides some new career opportunities for soldiers.

There are about 1,300 soldiers who are unmanned aerial systems operators (15W), and about the same number of soldiers who are UAS maintainers (15E), according to Sgt. Maj. Loren Gray, the senior enlisted soldier at TRADOC Capabilities Manager-UAS.

Both populations of soldiers will grow as the Army stands up the Gray Eagle companies, he said. There are no incentives right now for the military occupational specialties, but Gray said the Army typically does not have trouble filling its aviation slots.

"If you look at the big scheme of the Army, 15W is still a new MOS," Gray said.

The career track for soldiers in this field will depend on which aircraft they operate, as the 15W MOS includes soldiers who fly the Hunter, Shadow and Gray Eagle platforms, he said.

Because the Gray Eagle is a new aircraft for the Army, soldiers who train to fly it will likely stay in that track, Gray said. The Army also is training some of its Shadow operators to fly the Gray Eagle, he said.

Applicants for the MOS must score a minimum of 102 on the surveillance and communications section of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

Advanced individual training for UAS operators takes place at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

After eight weeks of common core training, students split off into UAS-specific training.

According to Webb, the Army is developing a universal ground control station that will allow soldiers to fly the Shadow, Hunter or Gray Eagle from one location, Webb said.

"If we build this thing properly and it's easy to transition from one aircraft to another, we're looking at the universal operator," he said. "The concept is, in the future, we'll have one 15W who learns, essentially, how to fly the universal ground control station and he would be prepared to fly any one of the three platforms we have."

This, however, is still years away as the Army develops the universal ground control station, Webb said.

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Soldiers who hold the 15E designation primarily are responsible for keeping the Army's fleet of unmanned aerial systems ready to fly, and collect and transmit information.

Repair and maintenance operations for these soldiers can involve an aircraft's electrical, avionics, propulsion and fuel systems.

Training for first-term soldiers involves 10 weeks of basic combat training, and 17 weeks of MOS-specific advanced individual training at Fort Huachuca.

Applicants for the MOS must score a minimum of 93 on the electronics section of the ASVAB and 104 on the mechanical maintenance section.

Warrant officers who hold the 150U designation serve as operations technicians for tactical UASs.

These former 15E and 15W soldiers serve as mission commanders, by identifying appropriate payloads to satisfy a mission's collection requirements, while coordinating airspace and serving as the Army's liaison for UAS operations.

To qualify for training and appointment as a 150U warrant officer, enlisted soldiers must hold MOS 15E or 15W, be in the rank of sergeant or above, be a graduate of the Advanced Leaders Course, be a U.S. citizen, have a general testing score of 110, or higher, and have less than 12 years of active service.

Additionally, warrant officer applicants must have at least 12 months experience in a supervisory position, have a secret security clearance and be recommended for Warrant Officer Candidate School attendance by a senior chief warrant officer.

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