Moving with his Army family from post to post — Germany, Georgia, Belgium, Arizona and home to Hampton — Javaughn Harrison got lots of chances to gaze out through an airliner window at the ground thousands of feet below.
He always loved that. And he told the recruiter just that when he swung by the Army Recruiting Center on Newmarket Drive in Newport News in 2017.
The recruiter said that sounded like flying a drone might be just the job for him.
And for a young man who spent more time outdoors playing soccer than with a gaming console there was a message in that that he’d like to share: the Army offers some unexpected opportunities.
Harrison is so enthusiastic about his work flying the RQ-7 “Shadow” unmanned aircraft system — Army talk for a drone — that he’s become one of the stars of the latest “What’s Your Warrior” marketing campaign.
“I came to work as usual one morning and our platoon sergeant said the Army wanted to make a commercial about UAS operators; UAS doesn’t get a lot of attention, so that sounded good to me,” Harrison said.
He said he’d be willing.
The campaign organizers snapped some photos, asked a few questions, “and honestly, I didn’t think that I’d get the role. It kind of slipped my mind, and then I got the call,” he said.
He’s now “The Upper Hand,” in the campaign’s videos detailing the life and work of a dozen soldiers, including “The “Dragon Tamer,” (an aviation officer), “The Thunder Maker” (section leader of a rocket- and missile-launch crew). “The Ground Breaker (surveyor and construction planner) and “The Nerve Center” (an intelligence analyst).
“When we launched ‘What’s Your Warrior?’ we established a new world for Gen Z to inhabit and explore its Army,” said Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army enterprise marketing.
Harrison’s experience is with the Big Red One infantry division at Fort Riley in Kansas, where he is one of the two-person team that fly the “Shadows” and operate the cameras, infrared sensors and laser pointers that gather the intelligence soldiers on the ground need to know.
He’s responsible for the pre-flight check when it is on its launch rails as well as either piloting the drone or operating its cameras and reporting what they’re seeing back to the ground.
It’s kind of like the roller coaster rides he’s enjoyed at Busch Gardens, he said. Pre-flight checks are like the ride up, full of anticipation; flying is like the ride itself, full of thrills and excitement.
He especially likes being the “left-seater” — the soldier who flies the Shadow by typing in commands on a keyboard, even though he wasn’t much of a computer geek growing up.
The only joystick for the Shadow is reserved for the camera and sensor operator in the right seat; it and a computer mouse aim and focus that equipment.
Harrison said the Army was a natural choice.
“I grew up in the Army, I’m an Army brat,” he said. “It was a good life, I got to see the world, to see things other people haven’t had a chance to … and I saw it was good to my folks.”
He’s expecting to make a career in the military.
“I have a 2-year old daughter now, and I want her to have the same things I did growing up,” he said.
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