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10th Mountain Division gets three new aces for drone kills

The three artillery soldiers took out more than two dozen attack drones fired at their base.
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Staff Sgt. Daniel Smith, Sgt. William Taroc, and Staff Sgt. Henry Davis, all members of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, earned "ace" status after collectively downing 28 drones. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

The U.S. Army has three new aces. They aren’t part of a helicopter crew, but rather artillery soldiers who took out more than two dozen enemy drones while deployed to the Middle East. 

The Army’s latest aces are Staff Sgt. Daniel Smith, Sgt. William Taroc, and Staff Sgt. Henry Davis, all assigned to 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. The fire team found itself under attack from enemy drones and ended up shooting down at least 28 one-way attack drones, with each member getting the five kills to earn “ace” status. 

Approximately 2,000 soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division spent nine months deployed to U.S. Central Command’s area of operation, as part of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the ongoing fight against ISIS. The situation escalated in October, when Hamas’ attack on Israel prompted the latter to start large-scale operations against Gaza. Militants throughout the Middle East began launching rockets and one-way uncrewed aerial vehicles at U.S. military outposts throughout the Middle East. 

The artillery soldiers found themselves taking part in air defense when more than two dozen drones were launched. Taroc shot down the most, taking out 13 before they could hit their target. Davis took out eight. Even Smith, whose role as a fire support noncommissioned officer mainly focuses on identifying targets, got eight kills while taking part in it. The Army said that the trio shot down 28 drones, although the confirmed kills for each soldier adds up to 29; it’s unclear if one or more drones were credited as being shot down by two or more of the trio. 

“We knew the consequences of our actions if we did or didn’t do it well,” Davis said in an Army release on the trio’s kills. “There’s a lot of importance behind actually performing under stress.”

The trio noted that they had trained extensively in shooting down attack drones while at the 10th Mountain Division’s home in Fort Drum, and while deployed to Kuwait, but in the field “seconds mattered.”

So far the more than 100 attacks on American installations have resulted in several injuries, including dozens of cases of traumatic brain injuries. Three National Guardsmen were killed at Tower 22, an American outpost in Jordan near the Syrian border. 

When members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, nicknamed “Commandos,” began returning to Fort Drum in late March, the 10th Mountain Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Gregory Anderson, said that the soldiers had repelled and endured more than 100 attacks during their stint in the Middle East.

“Our Commandos beat them off,” Anderson said at a ceremony for the soldiers’ return. “They did so with distinction and honor, and I could not be more proud of this formation and what they were able to do as a team.”

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It’s not immediately clear when exactly this shootdown incident occurred. Task & Purpose contacted the 10th Mountain Division about the news but as of press time has not heard back.

The three new aces aren’t the only ones from 2nd Brigade Combat Team to come back stateside with the new status. Spc. Dylan Green, an infantryman, earlier earned the nickname the “Ace of Syria” after he was credited with shooting down five drones.

Recent actions in the Middle East have resulted in American troops getting several drone kills. When Iran and its allies in the region launched more than 300 missiles and drones toward Israel on April 13, fighter jets from the 335th Fighter Squadron and 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron shot down dozens of one-way uncrewed aerial systems. The latter squadron recently returned back to base with some brand new kill markings.

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