By MCSN Richard Miller
Late in the morning, the sun beats down on a small group of structures in the middle of a field in Camp Roberts, Calif. More than a dozen men gather around a tent at the back end of the site as Senior Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Travis Bramwell speaks to them. As he speaks, a man kneels beside him and refuels a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial system.
Bramwell has worked with, and trained others on Scan Eagle for many years, but the group surrounding him now is different. They are the very first class to attend the Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command’s new Scan Eagle training school.
“This is the first stepping stone in the development of our UAS operators,” said Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Muskovac, the Special Reconnaissance Team Two UAS troop commander.
Scan Eagle unmanned aerial systems are piloted remotely and can be used in a variety of different settings.
“Scan Eagle is a runway-independent aircraft,” said Chief Operations Specialist Richard Baker, a student in the course. “It has a myriad of capabilities we can bring to the fight.”
The craft’s versatility makes it a valuable asset to operators down range.
“This technology is an organic platform, so when we’re with the operator they don’t have to request support from anywhere else,” said Baker. “We’re right there with them and we’re on top of it.”
The brand new course, which consists of classroom instruction in a new schoolhouse at Silver Strand Training Complex in Imperial Beach, Calif. and hands-on training at Camp Roberts, marks the first time Naval Special Warfare has instructed its own UAS course from start to finish.
“This schoolhouse has been in development for as long as I’ve been in NSW,” said Bramwell. “It’s been around seven years.”
Before shifting to the schoolhouse, students who received Scan Eagle training traveled to Oregon to learn from civilian instructors. The new course provides an opportunity for students to receive training tailored to their own mission.
“We’re going to have a better product here and a lot more structure,” said Bramwell. “There’s a level of attention and specialization we can provide here the school previously lacked.”
The new approach to Scan Eagle training is a condensed and accelerated version of the training students received in Oregon.
“It’s intense, it’s fast, and the learning curve is quick, but the instructors and the group of guys we have are awesome, so we all learn together,” said Baker. “We all succeed as a team.”
The specialized training aims to give students a leg up and make them more prepared to operate Scan Eagle systems in any environment for any mission they may be assigned to.
“I want to have a better-qualified UAS operator coming right out the door,” said Bramwell.
After years of planning, the opening of the schoolhouse has immediately had an impact on the community.
“It’s pretty amazing how far this program has come in a short period of time,” said Muskovac. “It’s a true testament to the spec-war mentality. They saw a need and they found a solution.”
While still brand new, the Scan Eagle program is already expanding.
“You start with one good idea, and now we’re building an enterprise around it,” said Muskovac. “We’re becoming more professional with having our own instructors and establishing our own safety guidelines and tactical principles.”
Muskovac, Bramwell and Baker all predict the course will keep its momentum and continue to improve and evolve as time goes on.
“This program is still growing,” said Baker. “I see it getting larger, I see it getting more attention and being a valuable asset to the community.”