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24 cadets receive Academy's 1st UAS-RPA wings
Cadets talk to Maj. Gen. James Poss during an unmanned aerial surveillance-remotely piloted aircraft reception at the Dean's Heritage House Feb. 25. The cadets are the first in Academy history to receive wings and become instructor pilots for the UAS-RPA program. General Poss is the director of Air Fore intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance strategy, integration and doctrine at the Pentagon.
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24 cadets receive Academy's 1st UAS-RPA wings

Posted 3/5/2010   Updated 3/5/2010 Email story   Print story

    


by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs


3/5/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.  -- Four juniors and 20 sophomores here received the first unmanned aerial systems-remotely piloted aircraft wings awarded in the school's 55-year history during a function at the Dean's Heritage House on Feb. 25.

Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould and Brig. Gen. Dana Born, the dean of the faculty, presented cadets with certificates and UAS-RPA scarves during the event.

"I'm thrilled to recognize the first class of cadets to graduate from Airmanship 200, Airmanship 201 and Airmanship 202 and become the catapult leaders for the UAS-RPA program at the Air Force Academy," General Born said. "You are all pioneers."

Cadets dined and spoke with Generals Gould and Born as well as attendees including retired Gen. James McCarthy, director of the Institute for Information Technology Applications; retired Lt. Gen. Ervin Rokke, president of the USAFA Endowment; Maj. Gen. James Poss, director of Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance strategy, integration and doctrine at the Pentagon; Mike Phillips, the executive director of Mission Analysis; Col. Paul Ackerman, the vice superintendent; Col. R.K. Williams, the acting commandant of cadets; Col. Dean Bushey, head of the Academy's UAS-RPA program, Col. Patrick Moylan, commander of the 306th Flying Training Group, and others.

"I've been with RPA's since the beginning," he said. "At first, it was tough going until we realized what a tremendous impact they could have on the application of air power. Now, we can't build them fast enough to satisfy demand. "

The Air Force's role in that history began in the mid- to late-1990s, awarding General Atomics a contract to build the first MQ-1 Predators for $3.2 million apiece. Teams with the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Air Station (now Creech AFB), Nev., flew MQ-1 Predators during Operation Allied Force in 1999. RPA mission frequency stepped up during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001 as the Air Force started deploying Predators in greater numbers to gather intelligence.

"Back then, we were doing good to get two Predators in the air for 20 hours a day," he said.

The number of RPA missions leaped after Secretary of Defense Robert Gates demanded more ISR capability from the Air Force in June 2008. Today the Air Force flies approximately 40 combat air patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week, primarily over Iraq and Afghanistan to provide persistent reconnaissance and strike capability. The Air Force is programmed to go to 50 CAPs and may go as high as 65, General Poss said.

"I'd tell you that you're the wave of the future, but you're not -- you're the wave of the present," the general continued. "That's the kind of impact you're going to have."

Cadet 2nd Class Jeff Nakayama, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., is one of the four juniors forming the Air Force Academy's instructor pilot cadre and an economics major with Cadet Squadron 34 (CS 34). He is also the son of retired Col. Dave Nakayama, a 1976 Academy graduate. He first found out about the Academy's UAS-RPA program through Cadet 2nd Class Bradley Sapper, an astronautical engineering major with CS 03.

"I got an e-mail from him asking if I wanted to be part of the program," said Cadet Nakayama, who is minoring in Japanese. "They were looking for people to head up leadership in a brand-new (UAS-RPA) program."

Though he was unsure at first, he decided to join the program after participating in the soaring and parachuting programs.

"I said, 'You know what? Let's see what happens,' and it took off from there," he said.
The instructor pilots visited Nellis AFB and Creech AFB, Nev., in the summer of 2009, to learn more about RPAs in the operational Air Force.

"It was an interesting experience, seeing the operational side and watching Airmen actually conduct a mission out there," Cadet Nakayama said. "We were able to go through the program first, experiment and spend a little more time on the airplane than the 2012 cadets did, and we got to teach them, which was the biggest challenge and learning experience."

The USAFA UAS-RPA program will take another step forward next year when the Academy acquires a ScanEagle, a 40-pound unmanned aircraft that launches from a hydraulic system similar to the catapult systems on aircraft carriers and "lands" using a skyhook and GPS guidance.

"Everyone's going to be learning again," Cadet Nakayama said.
And while the four Class of 2011 cadets will go into Air Force history as the Academy's first RPA instructor pilots, Cadet Nakayama said the real catapult leaders will be cadet instructors from future classes.

"I think it's going to be more the (classes of) 2012 and 2013 who really take off with the program, set it in full force and expand it to what General Gould, General Born, and General McCarthy envision."

The cadets who received RPA wings during the ceremony are:
Cadet 2nd Class Rupert Domingo CS 23 Economics
Cadet 2nd Class Jeffrey Nakayama CS 34 Economics
Cadet 2nd Class Stephen Pike CS 21 Management
Cadet 2nd Class Brad Sapper CS 03 Astronautical Engineering
Cadet 3rd Class Anthony Alt CS 17 Astronautical Engineering
Cadet 3rd Class Simone Barrette CS 02 Management
Cadet 3rd Class Jon Broadbent CS 03 Physics
Cadet 3rd Class Tony Caliva CS 29 Systems Engineering Management
Cadet 3rd Class Chris Danielson CS 24 Operations Research
Cadet 3rd Class Christina England CS 07 Biochemistry
Cadet 3rd Class Chelsea Esenwein CS 11 English
Cadet 3rd Class Mike Fournier CS 34 Civil Engineering
Cadet 3rd Class Anthony Jadick CS 31 Information Systems Engineering
Cadet 3rd Class Andrew Kleman CS 25 Aeronautical Systems Engineering
Cadet 3rd Class Rocco LiBrandi CS 18 Computer Engineering
Cadet 3rd Class Erika Martin CS 08 Legal Studies
Cadet 3rd Class Art Notini CS 30 Computer Science
Cadet 3rd Class Travis Potthoff CS 39 Computer Science
Cadet 3rd Class Daniel Rule CS 06 Military History
Cadet 3rd Class Emily Ryals CS 17 Legal Studies
Cadet 3rd Class Jeff Sasaki CS 23 Physics
Cadet 3rd Class Zach Schneider CS 12 Biology
Cadet 3rd Class Keegan Vaira CS 17 Civil Engineering
Cadet 3rd Class Kody Wilson CS 34 Physics and Electrical Engineering



tabComments
4/22/2010 5:02:55 PM ET
The wings are quite similar to Pilot wings however instead of a shield it is the top part of a globe with lightning bolts coming out and AFA underneath.Concerning what we learn we teach cadets basic UAS operations using Scan Eagles. We fly actual scenarios using buildings and other cadets as 'targets' that are monitored tracked and if deemed necessary 'destroyed.' We employ not just the UAS itself but many of our instructors also teach us 9-lines and communication with a CAOC as well as troops on the ground.
Daniel Rule, USAFA
 
3/12/2010 10:37:02 PM ET
Is this a new summer program that competes with jump and soar Also what exactly do you learn in this program
Joseph Goldsmith, Creech AFB
 
3/10/2010 5:52:50 PM ET
Just curious what these wings look like. Congrats to the cadets who participated.Erik van WeezendonkLtCol USMCUSAFA co 94
Erik van Weezendonk, California
 
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