AVON PARK AUXILIARY AIRFIELD, Fla. -- Marines with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 departed Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, July 28, taking their UAVs to the field to test their abilities in an expeditionary environment at Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida.
The purpose of the training is to help VMU-2 develop its mission readiness to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Avon Park offers the Marines of the squadron, especially its maintenance Marines, a chance to practice and refine their skills during scenarios that more closely resemble a deployed environment.
The unmanned aerial system avionics technicians of the squadron conduct daily maintenance of the RQ-7B Shadow system while in the field. Each UAV component must be inspected for safety before the Shadow is safe for launch and flight, according to Lance Cpl. Homero Campos, a UAV avionics technician with the squadron.
“Every day we arrive three to four hours earlier than the pilots and mission commanders to ensure the aircraft are prepped to launch,” said Campos, who values the chance to train in a more austere environment than Cherry Point.
“Training in Florida builds our abilities to work together as a maintenance department and shows we can operate in different environments,” said Campos.
As a UAV squadron, VMU-2 provides aerial surveillance and reconnaissance for combatant commanders of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The squadron's aircraft act as an eye in the sky to allow Marines on the ground to see geographic areas out of the line-of-sight.
Many of the Marines in the squadron are new to the UAV community and have yet to deploy in support of real-world operations. The training in Florida gives the squadron's Marines a chance to preview the tempo required during operations, according to Cpl. Evan Kennedy, an UAV avionics technician and quality assurance representative with the squadron. The demands of training require a high-level of teamwork and dependability.
“The operational tempo in Florida for the squadron's maintainers is much higher than at Cherry Point,” said Kennedy. “It is a big part of my job to ensure that correct procedures and system measurements are being taken throughout the maintenance departments as a quality insurance representative.”