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UAS sensor operator training to begin at Randolph

by Gabriel Myers
12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

7/17/2009 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force officials recently gave Randolph Air Force Base instructors the green light to begin training the next generation of enlisted sensor operators to support unmanned aircraft systems.

Stemming from the high demand for unmanned aircraft and operators, the 1UOX1 Air Force Specialty Code career field for enlisted sensor operators was created to better meet the need for highly-trained enlisted personnel to support UAS operations around the globe.

The first group of sensor operators will consist of cross-trainees from other career fields. They are scheduled to begin training at Randolph Aug 17. The first group to attend directly from basic training will start Sept. 21.

Sensor operators control the sensor suite on the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper while also communicating with servicemembers and commanders in the deployed theater of operations and intelligence specialists watching the UA feeds at U.S. bases.

The new 3-level certification course, called Basic Sensor Operator Training or BSOT, will be 21 days long and consist of fundamentals, sensors and communication, reference systems, full motion video and operational interface.

"DOD leaders have recognized the need to produce more UAS operators and enlisted sensor operators," said Col. Jimmy Donohue, 12th Operations Group deputy commander. "This curriculum is the Air Force answering the call to provide the capability to support this growing need."

In response to an Air Force chief of staff directive last year, Randolph officials launched the first UAS course in November 2008. Known as the UAS Fundamentals Course or UFC, by design, it was created to give future UAS operators a foundation of tactical knowledge and weapons employment before heading to Creech Air Force Base, Nev., for technical training with actual UAs.

The enlisted students completing the new BSOT course will immediately join the UAS officer operator candidates in the UFC course to train together and develop crew resource management skills that are essential to the MQ-1/9's success, Colonel Donohue said.

"By partnering the newly awarded 3-level SO's with the officers in the UFC course, it will provide them a solid foundation to do their job effectively from day one," he said.

Department of Defense officials have identified the need to produce more UAS operators and platforms to support global operations, and since early 2008, the number of Predators in the Air Force supporting combat operations has doubled.

"Randolph AFB is committed to supporting the UAS program and DOD objectives by establishing a world-class training environment to meet enlisted and officer requirements for emerging UAS missions," Colonel Donohue said.

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