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The RQ-7B, also known as the Shadow 200, shoots off the ramp as Staff Sgt. Jacksby Sewell and Sgt. James Marquardsen begin their qualification flight. Marines in an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operator military occupational specialty must qualify with their aircraft as well as with the rifle every year.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

‘Watchdog’ pilots sharpen skills

24 Mar 2009 | Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

Every Marine is a rifleman; this has been true since their origin as snipers on naval vessels, but some enlisted Marines at the Combat Center in the modern day must also learn to fly a plane on top of qualifying annually with a rifle.

Marines in Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadrons, who have a UAV operator military occupational specialty, must qualify annually at both flying and operating the payload aboard their aircraft, which is what Marines with VMU–1 did March 24 at the Combat Center’s Expeditionary Air Field.

Staff Sgt. Jacksby Sewell, and Sgt. James Marquardsen, both UAV pilots with VMU–1, underwent their annual qualification as pilots of the RQ – 7B, also known as the Shadow 200.

“You need to be qualified on this in school to graduate,” said Cpl. Derek Cooper, a UAV technician with VMU–1 and a Woodvillage, Ore., native. “They need to re-do their qualification every year, and it isn’t just simply flying or operating the payload of the aircraft.”

Cooper elaborated on how the Marines are tested while operating the aircraft.

“It’s pretty tough for them because they get verbally quizzed while they have to do things with the aircraft,” Cooper said. “They need to know emergency procedures for mid-flight problems that might happen with the aircraft.”

For their re-qualification, Sewell who comes from Ft. Worth, Texas, and Marquardsen, a Sacramento, Calif., native, flew a simulated mission. Their test was not just operating the aircraft, they were both quizzed on basic knowledge of the aircraft and its systems as they went through the flight.

“This has been the third time I’ve flown since I’ve been back from Iraq,” Sewell said after his flight was finished. “I’m feeling a lot better knowing that I am still good at my job.”

With their qualification done, Sewell and Marquardsen will be further assisting their squadron in supporting units here at the Combat Center and units overseas.

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