Phoenix Raven, antiterrorism programs earn DOD awards
Released: 7 Sep 1999
by Tech. Sgt. Karen Petitt
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- Training elite security forces teams and assessing terrorist and crime risks through a threat working group are two areas of Air Mobility Command's comprehensive antiterrorism program that earned Defense Department awards recently.
The Phoenix Raven program, instituted two years ago, received DOD's Most Outstanding Antiterrorism Innovation or Action in the Command category. "Ravens" are two- to four-person teams specially trained in antiterrorism, protocol and negotiation measures. They provide security for AMC aircraft and people when traveling to "hot spots" around the world.
Security forces unit commanders throughout AMC select candidates who then must pass a stringent two-week Raven course at the Air Mobility Warfare Center at Fort Dix, N.J. More than 330 students have been trained in cross-cultural communications, international law, advanced medical training, nonlethal force techniques (such as negotiation), advanced weaponry, site surveying and more. After graduating the course, individuals deploy as an aircrew member with their home unit or wherever directed by AMC's threat working group.
During fiscal 1998, Raven team members flew more than 400 missions into high-threat areas -- including Kenya after the U.S. Embassy bombing -- where they provided security for aircraft delivering support, rescue and investigation teams.
"It's now become a standard operating procedure to have our Phoenix Raven teams protect our aircraft and people rather than leaving them unsecured at high-threat locations," said Maj. Lynden Skinner, chief, AMC contingency operations branch.
He explained that it's not only active duty Air Force members participating in this program, but reserve and guard units as well. Other major commands, such as the Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Combat Command and the Pacific and European commands, are realizing the benefits of the Phoenix Raven program and are sending some of their security forces to AMC's training course.
Four-person Raven teams are now the standard security package for the Department of State during their diplomatic embassy support missions each year and for the director of the CIA when traveling abroad.
The success of the RAVEN program helped earn AMC an Honorable Mention for DOD's Best Antiterrorism Program for a Major Command. The antiterrorism program encompasses getting everyone to think about their force protection responsibilities. AMC has since spent more than $55 million to protect passengers in DOD terminals worldwide and built better antiterrorism training programs for deployed members, ensuring force protection is a fundamental planning and programming consideration in all command activities.
The command's threat working group is the key to making the Raven program a success and ensuring their vulnerability assessments are accurate, said Capt. Don Dereberry, chief, AMC's antiterrorism and force protection branch.
"The threat working group meets each day to look at every high-risk mission we're flying, whether it's stateside or overseas to assess the threats -- be they criminal, terrorist, military or medical," he said. "What's so great about our group is that it is completely cross-functional, with membership from intelligence, CIA, U.S. Transportation Command, flying operations, medics and more. It's a real team effort and our process has been copied by other commands."
The real challenge though, he said, has been getting people to understand that force protection is not a mission, but a responsibility everyone shares.
"We can put the information out there and update it the best we can, but we're not going to be everywhere or be able to protect everyone," he said. "It's up to each member to be aware and to use their training to protect themselves, their co-workers and their family members." (Courtesy of AMC News Service)