Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

November 18, 2011 at 4:18am

Raven part of special job in Air Force and at McChord

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It's not uncommon in Staff Sgt. Nicholas Quijano's job for him to be greeted in other countries with a hug and a kiss on both cheeks.

It's something he's used to by now.

A Phoenix Raven with the 627th Security Forces Squadron at McChord Field, Quijano travels with aircrews to remote locations all over the world. Thanks to an in-depth knowledge of cross-cultural awareness, the 28-year-old Tacoma native knows just what to expect when he's greeted by a host country's dignitaries.

"We're looked at as ambassadors for the U.S. and the Air Force," said Quijano, who's been a Raven since 2006. "We're representing a bigger cause."

Implemented in 1997, the Phoenix Raven program consists of teams of specially trained security forces personnel dedicated to providing security for Air Mobility Command aircraft transiting high terrorist and criminal threat areas. AMC has more than 200 active-duty Raven-trained security forces members assigned at major AMC bases nationwide.

The Raven program ensures an acceptable level of security for aircraft transiting airfields where security is unknown or additional security is needed to counter local threats, according to AMC officials.

"We're there to protect the jet and the crew," Quijano said.

The Phoenix Raven training course is an intensive two-week, 12-hour-a-day course that covers such subjects as cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, airfield survey techniques, explosive ordnance awareness, aircraft searches and unarmed self-defense techniques. Students are exposed to dozens of use-of-force scenarios where stress is simulated through the use of role players.

Ravens are also trained to utilize many "art of persuasion" techniques, Quijano said.

"It allows us to de-escalate a situation without having to put our hands on anyone," he said.

Raven candidates are also instructed on anti-hijacking duty in cooperation with the Federal Air Marshal program. Training is designed to provide security forces members with the skills required for their unique mission and builds on the basic security force skills taught at the Security Forces Academy at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The number of Raven graduates now stands at more than 2,000.

The unique job opportunity has enabled Quijano to travel all over the world and visit many different countries. He's flown into many small airfields in Africa on humanitarian missions and gotten a chance to talk with the locals.

"They're just amazed," the staff sergeant said. "A lot of people (in small countries) have never seen a C-17 or C-5 (aircraft)."

Locals are also often appreciative of the humanitarian mission.

"They know we're there for a good cause," Quijano said.

While all the flying - sometimes for 12 to 13 hours straight - can take a toll on Ravens, there is a strong emphasis on physical fitness to help combat the effects all the flying has on the body, the Airman said.

Despite the challenges, Quijano can't see himself doing anything else.

"The experience itself is amazing," he said. "It's so rewarding."

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