Florida partners with Washington for training at Camp Blanding

STARKE, Fla. (March 7, 2012) – Sunshine and warmer weather brought Soldiers from the Washington National Guard to Florida recently to gain valuable flight hours on the Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center.


Soldiers from Detachment 1, Company A, 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, a detachment of the Washington National Guard’s 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, left winter behind last week and traveled to Florida for several days of hands-on flight training on the Shadow aircraft.

“[Because we’re such a small career field], we try to assist each other with training and lessons learned,” said Chief Warrant Officer Rodney Turner, platoon leader for the Florida National Guard’s Company B, Special Troops Battalion, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The detachment, comprised of approximately 20 people, contains Shadow operators and maintainers who keep the aircraft in flying shape. For this training, the Washington Soldiers used Florida’s Shadow aircraft, providing a cost-effective training solution that keeps the Florida aircraft running smoothly.

According to Turner, having the Soldiers fall in on the Florida equipment provides advantages for both sides. “It’s cheaper for them and our aircraft gets to get up in the air.”

The Washington Soldiers will fly the aircraft and maintain them, as the full-time Florida Soldiers stand by to offer assistance. Working together allows both units to gain experience from the other.

“You get complacent when you know your equipment,” said Staff Sgt. Catalina Avalos, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Washington detachment. She says that working with equipment they don’t work with every day helps her Soldiers to stay flexible and better prepared should they have to fall in on new equipment during a deployment.

The Camp Blanding Airfield, though currently unpaved, presented the Washington Soldiers with another chance to become familiar with operating in an unfamiliar environment. The unpaved surface mimics a situation where the Soldiers may have to operate where a paved runway does not yet exist. Camp Blanding has plans to pave the airfield in the near future.

Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is a 72,000-acre training facility that provides resources to enhance joint, interagency and multinational training and employs innovative practices and evolving technologies to meet the changing training demands of military and civilian security forces.