TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The United States Air Force has an elite security unit that’s filled with individuals trained for a specific job: protecting aircraft and crews from enemy assaults while on the ground in austere and dangerous areas.
This group of elites are not to be reckoned with and have the honorable title of Phoenix Ravens.
As cool as the title sounds, receiving it is earned through one intense training plan.
At Travis Air Force Base, California, the 60th Security Forces Squadron Raven pre-apprentice program is filled with extensive training hours where Airmen are pushed to new limits to see if they have what it takes to become a Phoenix Raven.
Ravens take it upon themselves to acclimate aspiring Ravens for the curriculum the Phoenix Raven Program at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, has.
“There is a 25 percent fail rate (of Raven applicants at McGuire),” said Senior Airman Josue Jimenez, 60th SFS Raven and instructor of the pre-apprentice Raven training program. “This is a specialized duty where we need to be mission ready year-round.”
“To become a Raven, you need heart and willpower to push you through the training,” he said.
The pre-apprentice program is strict and trainees should fully understand the severity of it so they are prepared for McGuire, said Jimenez.
The two-week, 12-hour-a-day course at McGuire covers cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, explosive ordnance awareness and more. While Raven apprentices are learning these techniques, they also are exposed to more than 70 use-of-force scenarios.
“I think the training is really intense,” said Senior Airman Rodreques Wright, 60th SFS defender and Raven apprentice at McGuire. “It is definitely tough at times, but it is preparing me for the times when I may be tired or weak and just have to push through to get the mission done.”
Maintaining optimal health for this job is a necessity, and requires extensive and vigorous hours of training, said Jimenez.
“Ravens have historically exceeded the standards,” said Wright. “That is definitely something I want to be a part of. At no point in my life did I ever expect myself to be able to do 500 four-count side straddle hops (a cardiovascular full-body exercise) without stopping, until I actually did it.”
Not everyone is selected to become a Raven, but the individuals who graduate the program take a lot of pride when they receive their Raven number, said Jimenez.
“I didn’t find out about the Phoenix Raven program until I got stationed at Travis and ever since then, I have always wanted to be one,” said Wright.
“I know the training will be tough at McGuire, but I’ve also found throughout the Raven pre-apprentice course that my body is capable of doing things that I had no clue of,” said Wright. “I was nervous starting the process, but I am ready to go there and come back with my tab and number.”
The special duty is a two-year commitment. Within those couple years, Ravens never know when they will be called upon.
“Going on a temporary duty is unexpected, but always an experience for the books,” said Jimenez. “The Raven brotherhood here is strong. We have 27 ravens all focusing on the same thing: combative readiness, fitness readiness and mission readiness.”
For Wright, becoming a Raven will be career changing.
“Becoming a Phoenix Raven to me means doing something different with my career,” said Wright. “Becoming a Raven is helping me with my personal and professional goals.”
Whether the danger is from terrorist groups or hostile insurgents, Phoenix Ravens may be the only thing standing between these threats and a massive cargo aircraft with an American flag on its tail.
“I’m learning no matter where I am in the world, I represent the Air Force,” said Wright. “I’m excited for this program and where it can take me.”