Pre-deployment training prepares Soldiers for a wide range of missions they may encounter. Flying a blimp is typically not one of them.
Or at least it wasn’t for Soldiers on Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, until a new surveillance blimp took its place in the skies above FOB Warrior.
The blimp began operating June 28, and is part of a growing number of these blimps currently being used across Iraq.
This equipment takes a special group of Soldiers operating day and night to keep it in the air and out of harm’s way.
“If the blimp starts losing helium, or if it needs to be patched, we take it down, find the hole and fix it,” said Spc. Jennifer Cumbie, a Miami native and a multi-channel transmission system operator with Co. B, 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division.
The Soldiers are also on the lookout for bad weather and heavy winds, which can affect the stability of the blimp.
“In the communications world, Soldiers who operate their systems are in control of troubleshooting and can easily identify where a problem can, or has occurred,” said 2nd Lt. Valerie LoSchiavo, the officer in charge of the blimp team and a platoon leader with Company B, 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “But this mission holds challenges and variables that are difficult to predict or determine.”
And the unpredictability of this weather has made the job of these Soldiers challenging.
“It has been a learning experience,” said Spc. Marshall Austin, a Wilkesborow, N.C., native and a shift leader with the blimp team.
“We all learned an entirely new system,” said LoSchiavo. “But the team has adapted to the task with ease. They have done an outstanding job,” said LoSchiavo.
“When they found out about it they were excited to do something new,” she said. “It gave us something to focus on and put our energy into.”
Story by Pfc. Justin Naylor