La. Guard officially opens ‘unique’ unmanned aircraft facility

The Official Party prepares to cut the ceremonial ribbon signifying the official opening of the new Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Facility (TUASOF) during a ceremony at Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana, on Jan. 13, 2015. The building consists of nearly 10,000 square feet; it sits on 11.5 acres and includes a 1,200 foot UAS runway. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Denis B. Ricou, Public Affairs Office/RELEASED)
The Official Party prepares to cut the ceremonial ribbon signifying the official opening of the new Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Facility (TUASOF) during a ceremony at Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana, on Jan. 13, 2015. The building consists of nearly 10,000 square feet; it sits on 11.5 acres and includes a 1,200 foot UAS runway. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Denis B. Ricou, Public Affairs Office/RELEASED)

By 1st Lt. Rebekah Malone, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office

PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard held a ceremony to celebrate the opening for the Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Facility (TUASOF) at Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana, Jan. 13.

The unit’s primary mission is to support the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk. The TUASOF also provides UAS specific training for other National Guard UAS platoons, as well as fly the RQ-7B Shadow Unmanned Aircraft in the adversary UAS role. This is the replication of enemy UAS tactics as they would be used against US forces on a future battlefield.

“We felt it was very important for the Louisiana National Guard to devote the resources to develop our UAS capabilities,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the LANG. “Our partnership with Fort Polk has enabled us to provide cutting edge training to better prepare our military forces for the future battlefield; this is something we are very proud of.”

Since the first flight in August 2013, the UAS facility has supported 11 JRTC rotations by flying 40-50 flight hours per rotation. The TUASOF supports every type of unit in the Army that comes through JRTC including conventional brigade combat teams, Special Operations Forces and U.S. Air Force and Navy units. More than 200 National Guard and active component UAS Soldiers have trained at the facility.

“With unmanned aircraft systems playing such a dominant role on the 21st century battlefield, determining methods and ways to defeat enemy tactics is vital to the protection of U.S. and allied forces,” said Harvey Browne, coordinator at the National Guard Bureau for Army National Guard UAS Programs.

“By working closely with the JRTC and our active duty counterparts, the Army National Guard is helping to pave the way for battle space dominance by actively assisting in the development and employment of counter UAS doctrine for the United States military forces.”

The UAS can assist U.S. forces by providing intelligence or playing the adversary. By playing against the U.S. forces, the military can better prepare themselves for battle against enemies that have similar technology.

According to Brig. Gen. Joanne Sheridan, assistant adjutant general, Army, these advances have given our forces a significant edge in the way the nation’s military operations are planned and executed. She said “none of these have a more dramatic impact than the unmanned aerial vehicle.

“… we need modernized facilities such as this. This facility will incorporate all areas necessary to fully utilize UAV operations and training – simulators, flight planning, classrooms, maintenance bays as well as runway for launches and recoveries – which will allow for continuous training and operations.”

Sheridan said a facility this unique does not happen without a tremendous amount of planning and cooperation.

“What is not unique is the partnership between the Louisiana National Guard and Fort Polk. For years we joined together to support training and operations here. Our partnership will be a cornerstone of developing future doctrine for the operations of UAVs.

“This facility symbolizes the great things that can happen when people and organizations work together,” said Sheridan.

The TUASOF building consists of nearly 10,000 square feet; it sits on 11.5 acres and includes a 1,200 foot UAS runway. The facility was built at a cost of $5.5 million and was designed to support operations for all types of Army unmanned aircraft systems.

Brig. Gen. William Hickman, commanding general for JRTC and Fort Polk, said the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk and the LANG have elevated the training provided at JRTC.

“The recent opening of the LANG UAS facility at Fort Polk is … another example of a modern training facility that adds to Fort Polk’s status as a premier training center for the total Army.

“We are very appreciative of the LANG’s decision to build their UAS facility at Fort Polk and look forward to their unit’s future training opportunities.”

The facility is fully energy conservation compliant, has fully automated environmental controls, state art audio visual/networking, solar energy augmentation and is hurricane and tornado resistant.

Only a few facilities such as this exist.

“There are no other units at the national training center, or in Germany, which do this on a regular, integrated basis as a mission set,” said Warrant Officer 2 Michael Gray, UAS program manager for the LANG. “There is a huge amount of integration that goes on here.

“It’s a true win-win situation for us. We get all the training that we can’t get anywhere else in the world. There are so many amazing training opportunities here at Fort Polk,” said Gray. “It’s a very unique environment.”

In a field that is emerging and changing on a regular basis, LANG’s participation is helping to pave the way.

“It’s not just about us,” said Gray. “What makes the unit better makes UAS better. We share everything.”

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