By Brock Gibson, Vice President Field Operations
For 240 consecutive years, residents of the United States of America have together thrown a colossal birthday party for their country on July 4th. This national celebration is a tribute to the historical day that marked the beginning of a monumental adventure: our nation’s independence.
In reflection of our most recent Independence Day celebration, I would like to pay tribute to just a few of the many brave individuals at Insitu who have placed themselves in danger and sacrificed precious moments with their loved ones to maintain our freedoms and safety in the United States. The best way to demonstrate the incredible work being done away from home is to share a few stories recounted to me over the years by our field service representatives (FSR) at Insitu, who, like our servicemen and women, make sacrifices to ensure the success of our customers as they operate our technology in support of various national interests.
The first brief story I will share, like many others, is a story of perseverance and impeccable performance. Roughly eight years ago, during a time of rampant terrorism in the Pacific Islands, a team of Insitu’s FSRs were called into duty to support a customer by providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services. Our team spent several months deployed while collecting intelligence on the most active terrorists in the area, who were allegedly responsible for harboring the militants that led the 2002 Bali bombings, killing over 200 people.
As a result of our team’s tenacious information-gathering, our customer was able to identify the precise locations from where the top terrorist responsible for attacks in the region was operating. This man was subsequently fatally injured in a successful raid, while Insitu provided continued over watch using ISR assets. The expertise of our customer in utilizing actionable intelligence supported by the integral services of our FSR’s enabled the elimination of this terrorist.
The second story I will share is one you are likely familiar with. In 2009, Captain Richard Phillips was kidnapped from his cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates. As you may have seen in the Hollywood depiction of this event, Captain Phillips was taken from his ship and held hostage on a lifeboat with the pirates.
When a rescue plan was put into motion, Insitu’s deployed team and ISR assets were called in to provide support for the U.S. Navy. With ScanEagle providing over watch for the rescue mission, snipers aboard the U.S.S. Bainbridge were able to take out the pirates, saving the life of Captain Phillips.
Just a few years ago, a team of our FSRs was deployed with the Czech Republic in Afghanistan. As they began to conduct initial flight tests of the ScanEagle system, our team noticed some suspicious activity surrounding the forward operating base (FOB): a group of people appeared to be hiding outside the FOB underneath a tarp. After alerting the command team at the FOB, our FSRs completed initial system checks and immediately extended the mission to providing operational support. Guided by live intelligence from ScanEagle, our FSRs directed a group of people from the FOB onto the target, which resulted in a large firefight. This quick and precise performance from both our FSRs and the customer resulted in the halting of a planned attack on the FOB, and likely the saving of several lives.
A recent maritime operation in the Mediterranean Sea with our British customer shifted to a humanitarian relief effort when the crew renewed their focus on rescuing refugees who had risked their lives to flee Syria. Shortly after the mission shifted, our team operating ScanEagle was able to locate a small boat in the middle of the sea, which was overloaded with over 100 refugees. The crew brought them onto the ship, rescuing them from a situation that the refugees surely would not have survived. This mission and several others in the ensuing weeks resulted in the saving of hundreds of lives in the Mediterranean.
Closer to home, on the border of Arizona and Mexico, our FSRs teamed up with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to conduct an operational demonstration of ScanEagle’s capabilities. Within the first 50 minutes after launch, the demonstration team used our night vision sensor to locate a group of drug traffickers who were carrying a load of illegal drugs across the border in backpacks in the dead of night. Our team was able to talk the border patrol agents step by step to the exact location of the drug traffickers, resulting in a successful seizure and arrest.
In the summer of 2015, Insitu had the opportunity to directly support a fire suppression effort in Olympic National Park, Washington – the state that is home to our headquarters.
Our team was able to prove not only that our operations were safe and well-organized, but also that flying in conjunction with our systems could make the pilots of manned aircraft more effective in their fire suppression drops. They began to realize the utility of our sensors in that they could define something that even experienced pilots could not see – the hot spots masked by smoke and debris that were fueling the rest of the fire. When the pilots of the manned aircraft started to realize the synergy that can exist between manned and unmanned assets in fire suppression efforts, their attitudes shifted from being reluctant to have our team operating nearby, to preferring our team’s support in fighting the fire.
I share this handful of stories with you as a tribute to the incredible efforts and dedication of our customers as well as our deployed team members at Insitu, as these men and women collaborate to protect our national interests on a daily basis.
These brave individuals take on challenges away from their own families and homes, so that we do not have to endure the ravages and conditions of these events happening within our own borders. It is because of their sacrifices that we are each able to go about our daily lives in peace and celebration of our independence.
In closing, I would personally like to thank all of our deployed team members and our customers for their efforts and dedication to preserving our safety and independence in the United States.