It’s a relatively new concern on the battlefield, but drones are becoming a weapon of choice.

And as the U.S. military continues to study and train, a group of Fort Drum soldiers — recently in the Middle East — were forced to learn on the fly.

What You Need To Know

  •  The 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade recently spent nine months in the Middle East, facing hundreds of missile and improvised drone attacks

  •  Three members of the brigade shot down five or more of those drones and are now known as "Aces" all with 2,200 or so lives on the line
  •  The Army is in the early stages of countering unmanned aircraft, but did get its soldiers simulation training, in addition to teaching the ability to adapt

Over the past 20 years, soldiers in the Middle East have focused on what's below with explosive devices routinely lurking in the ground — and they could be anywhere. IEDs are extremely dangerous when struck, even for an armored vehicle.

But now, those eyes have been forced to look up.

Parts of the wreckage of a drone are laid out on the ground near the Ain al-Asad airbase, in the western Anbar province of Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. Two explosives-laden drones targeting the base housing U.S. troops were engaged and destroyed by defensive capabilities at the base on Tuesday, a coalition official said. (International Coalition via AP)

“In the short span of six months, it it all changed,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team Staff Sgt. Henry Davis said.

Davis experienced that change firsthand. Davis, a member of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, recently spent nine months in the Middle East when a typical advise-and-assist mission became anything but.

“There's really nothing that can train you for the quantity that we dealt with,” he remembered.

From October of last year through the winter, this unit in Iraq was under fire. Hundreds of everyday drones, improvised and created to attack and explode. 

“It is something real,” Sgt. William Taroc said. “It is somebody trying to send something to hurt you."

The Army has known this new improvised weapon was coming. In fact, the 10th Mountain Division has done a number of simulation trainings. However, this deployment was not a simulation.

The unit to come back with no casualties.

“I’m just happy that everyone who went out to the base with me all came home alive,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Smith said.

Taroc admitted it was scary at first.

“But overall, the picture of it, it's an honor to be able to. It shows the efficiency of the training and the military as a whole that we can adapt to new things in such a fast pace,” Taroc added.

That happened in large part because of three men, each shooting down more than five of those enemy aircraft. Upon returning home, being given a new moniker, "Ace."

“It does feel like a something larger, like a bigger deal,” Davis said.