Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

March 31, 2016 at 12:08pm

Specially trained Security Forces airmen protect AMC assets

Ravens guard an Air Force plane. U.S. Air Force photo

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In 1996, three specific events highlighted the need for on-the ground, close-in U.S. security at foreign airfields, which led to the establishment of the raven program.

In Mongolia, two children climbed into the wheel well of a C-141 after the aircrew conducted their walk-around. When the aircraft went to altitude, the children froze to death and later fell out of the wheel well as the aircraft landed. In Senegal, with no host nation security forces or AMC aircrew present, a second AMC aircraft was damaged by local nationals. Lastly, the Khobar Towers bombing, and the subsequent Downing Commission Report, re-enforced Force Protection as an inherent commander's responsibility.

The raven program was implemented in 1997 by former AMC commander, Gen. Walter Kross, to better protect military aircraft in an expeditionary environment. Although geographic combatant commanders are responsible for force protection in their theater, AMC recognized it was more practical to provide an organic fly-away security force for the complex missions that AMC and United States Transportation Command perform. In the past 19 years, ravens have protected assets in humanitarian relief missions, contingencies, and numerous named operations.

"Ravens travel as aircrew members on missions to help detect, deter, and counter threats to AMC aircraft and crews to ensure they can complete their mission," said Master Sgt. Greggery Gordon, AMC Phoenix Raven. Gordon has also been a raven since 2001.

A select group of Air Force Security Forces volunteers go through a qualification process and an intensive 22 days of training at the Air Force Expeditionary Center in order to become Phoenix Ravens. The training includes cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, airfield survey methods, and unarmed self-defense techniques with more than 70 use-of-force scenarios. Ravens are taught to use the lowest level of force necessary, including verbal judo, which is used to deescalate a situation while gaining trust and cooperation of a subject.

"We review the curriculum and update the qualification course constantly to provide the best training possible," said Maj. Jodi DeDecker-Bubar, AMC Deputy Security Forces Contingency Operations Branch. "We currently have 117 funded positions; however, as of April 1, 2016, this will increase by twenty-one because of mission workload. In comparison, there were 250 plus ravens assigned following 9/11."

Each major command is responsible for implementing the way they conduct their fly-away security (FAS) program. AMC utilizes Phoenix Raven, because of the exclusive training they receive. AMC's Phoenix Raven Course has trained Guard and Reserve, sister service, and coalition ravens. The difference between the FAS teams and Phoenix Ravens is the length of the qualification course, UTCs, and specialized in-depth training.

"Ravens are trained to use discrete techniques and procedures; including weapons employment and by wearing flight suits to blend in with the aircrew," said DeDecker-Bubar.

Upon graduation of the course, ravens receive an individual lifetime numeric identifier, special experience identifier, and are authorized wear of the new raven tab. They also commit to being available 24/7 for a mission. Ravens average over 100 missions per month. Of the 19 years since the program evolved, 2015 was the second highest year for missions, with 1,394 completed. The program's busiest year was 2002, due to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom expanding, with 1,442 missions completed.

When a mission is loaded into the Global Decision Support System (GDSS) by the 618th Air Operations Center planners, AMC Raven Program Managers and the Threat Working Group review the mission and compare it to the AMC Phoenix Raven locations list.

Depending on the size of the aircraft and ground time at a raven required location, teams are tasked from one of the six hubs: Joint Base Lewis-McChord; Travis AFB, California; MacDill AFB, Florida; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Dover AFB. Delaware and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

There are also ravens staged at overseas locations. Upon landing, ravens are the first members off the aircraft and the last ones on.

"The raven program safeguards our Nation's Rapid Global Mobility mission. These professional Security Forces airmen ensure the highest level of Force Protection for AMC's Strategic Airlift assets and personnel - no matter what the operating environment may be," said Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, Air Mobility Command commander.

Next year, the Phoenix Raven program will celebrate its 20th anniversary. For those interested in the program, please contact their supervisor and reference AFI 31-104_AMCSUP, Security Forces Specialized Missions for guidance.

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