RAVENs protect C-17 on missions

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Desiree Kiliz
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Scenario: stow-away found in the wheel base of an aircraft after it lands in the U.S. from a continental flight. Problem... potential for catastrophic damages to military personnel, equipment, aircraft and civilians if a stowaway is armed. Solution: Air Mobility Command's Phoenix RAVEN program. 

Since its inception in 1997, as a result of the above scenario, the RAVEN program has placed specially-trained security forces Airmen on missions, to allow for greater force protection of aircrews and military resources from potential transit threats. 

"We have five RAVENs who are current and certified on flying missions from our unit," said Master Sgt. Lenny Deboma, 446th Security Forces Squadron senior air reserve technician. "We have three others who went through the training when they were on active duty, although they are not current right now." 

"Before this program was implemented, any security forces personnel could just go fly with an aircraft, but they weren't trained for potential scenarios," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Steen, a RAVEN with the 446th Security Forces Squadron. "Using anti-terrorism as protection is serious and this program standardizes our processes." 

RAVEN missions, which fly all over the world, can be tasked by AMC, 22nd Air Force and 4th Air Force. Airmen at the 446th SFS have supported missions from South Africa to Bolivia, however, typically support missions flown to and from the Pacific. 

"We support C-130 missions from San Juan to Puerto Rico on a regular basis, but will also fly any other missions that come up and fit into our civilian schedules" said Sergeant Steen. 

"I remember going to a place that had no electricity after an earthquake and I helped deliver those supplies," said Master Sgt. Carlos Duell, 446th SFS RAVEN. "I physically pulled the cargo full of toothbrushes, toothpaste, water and other essentials that the Red Cross provides and it just makes you feel like you've done something worthwhile." 

Most of the missions typically range from three to 14 days and can be assigned to any airframe that AMC designates for a RAVEN to fly on. Another aspect added to the RAVEN program is that when missions are assigned, personnel are not always available to go as a group from one base, so one RAVEN may from be McChord and another from March ARB, Calif. The security forces Airmen become a part of the aircrew, right down to the uniforms they wear - flightsuits. 

"We typically meet each other and the crew a day or two before the mission, attend any briefings and begin planning for the trip," said Sergeant Steen. "We work closely with the aircrew and commander in our missions to make sure all are safe. If security is ok, we even help the loadmasters with the on-load and off-load." 

Although there is a great amount of work that goes into preparing and accomplishing the mission, security forces Airmen do see the rewards from their efforts. 

"It is definitely the most difficult program within security forces, but it does provide a great opportunity to become well rounded and more exposed to the field," said Sergeant Shumate. 

"The program gives us the opportunity to get into the plane and head down range where our resources need to be protected," said Sergeant Duell. "For me it offers a sense of accomplishment to be able to go somewhere and provide security while others deliver supplies to those who need them." 

A great amount of training goes into preparing a security forces Airman to become a RAVEN. Airmen in the RAVEN program must go through a specialty course, which is unlike any other security forces training. For 15 days, security forces Airmen endure rigorous hours of classes from aircraft familiarity and anti-hijacking to cultural awareness and unarmed defensive techniques. 

After all the rigorous training in combat scenarios and tactics, what the RAVEN program comes down to is ensuring the security forces Airmen are properly trained in ways to protects the resources and provide support wherever the Air Force may need it.