Desert mission to train troops
A HIGH-FLYING Swansea soldier has been helping to train reservists to keep troops on the ground safe as part of a Californian exercise.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Mark Power, of 104 Regiment Royal Artillery, has been helping part-time soldiers get to grips with the Desert Hawk III — a mini-unmanned aerial vehicle — that the Army relies on to survey dangerous areas from high in the sky to protect soldiers.
The 42-year-old, from Winch Wen, Swansea, is serving with the Army's only reserve unit involved in operating this type of specialist equipment. Mark spent a fortnight based at Nacimiento Training Area, Camp Roberts, in California, as part of the exercise.
The location is mainly used by the US Army's National Guard for training and is sited between San Francisco and Los Angeles. A total of 100 soldiers from the regiment have been involved with Exercise Flying Dragon. Swansea City season ticket holder Mark said the training on the Californian plains had proved to be invaluable.
He said: "It's important we are able to work in certain climates and California offers us the best conditions to ensure soldiers get plenty of time to learn the skills needed to operate this equipment.
"Rain, fog and mist prevents flight time with the DHIII and what we've got out here are clear days to keep the training going."
The tactical surveillance system Desert Hawk III (DHIII) has helped to pick out suspicious activity, which could pose a danger to British troops and help to ensure the setting up of safe patrol routes and also back up troops in need of support.
Soldiers had the chance to learn how to pilot and launch the aircraft in good weather conditions to help them to become competent and also gain the currency licences needed to allow them to head out on operations.
Mark, who has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany and Belize, during more than 20 years in the Army, said the equipment can prove to be life-saving in conflict zones. "The DHIII gives us another perspective to what may be out on the battlefield," he added. "We can oversee compounds and walls where there may be certain threats posed to soldiers. That's very important because it can help us save lives."