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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | Feb. 3, 2023

Joint Base Andrews Pre-Raven Course prepares candidates for mental, physical challenges

By Airman 1st Class Isabelle Churchill, 316th Wing Public Affairs

“I was walking into work one day at Ramstein, I had my plate carrier on, weapon, everything, and I saw this guy sprinting across the parking lot wearing a beret, but also a flight suit,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Manahan, 816th Security Forces Squadron Raven mission planner. “I was like, a cop in a flight suit? What the heck? So I go inside and I’m talking to one of my flight chiefs and he tells me about Ravens and explains their mission to me. About two weeks later we had a new mentor come in and he was a Raven. The way that he carried himself was above anything I’d ever seen in our career field, and I aspired to be like him. That was what motivated me to become a Raven.”

Security Forces is the largest career field in the Air Force, with thousands of Airmen protecting military bases around the world. Among the masses are small groups of defenders that carry a special title, an achievement that requires hours of intense training, immense physical strength and mental fortitude. These Airmen are known as Phoenix Ravens.

“Ravens are United States Air Force Security Forces members that are specially trained to provide security for Air Mobility Command aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Vincent Kidd, 816th Security Forces Squadron raven mission planner. “They travel in teams to areas that have been deemed as high criminal or terrorist locations, or where the threats can be unknown.”

Defenders that commit to the Ravens have to prepare themselves mentally and physically from the very beginning, starting with a week-long Pre-Raven Course, organized to ensure quality candidates for the job. If selected, they’re then off to the 28-day Phoenix Raven Qualification Course at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, but those who are willing to take on the challenge are determined to succeed.

The course consists of areas such as practical application of knowledge, hand-to-hand and ground combat training, first aid classes, and surveillance and counter-surveillance training.

“I wanted to be part of a greater mission in the military,” said Staff Sgt. Karina Mendez. “I liked the challenge. I liked the mental and physical pressure that it offers. I was the only female in my class and I had to be able to keep up with the guys in this male- dominated career field. That’s what drove me. Just to be able to say that I did it. I was so proud of myself.”

Despite the difficulties of becoming a Raven, one of the many attractive qualities is the ability to travel worldwide. While Ravens across the globe share a common goal, the specific mission varies from base to base.

“At Travis or Dover, you might be carrying a C-17 full of munitions, troops, MRE’s or anything else that you can think of,” said Manahan. “Here on Andrews, it’s different. We’re carrying your top five, so the President, Vice President, First Lady, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense [and] any important leader you can think of. That’s who we fly with.”

Due to the travel needs of the nation’s leaders, Ravens are required to travel frequently. Manahan expressed that during his time as a Raven he has been to 46 countries.

In addition to traveling and experiencing different cultures, some Ravens have also been given the chance to train with foreign militaries. Kidd recounted his positive experience training with the Royal Air Force and the Hungarian Air Force.

“It’s really amazing breaking down language barriers to work toward a common goal together,” Kidd said. “I’m in the military serving my country, just like they are. It gives a sense of camaraderie. We’re all coming together for a common cause.”

Despite the challenges of becoming a Raven, the lifestyle provides ever-changing experiences for its members.

“Everywhere you go, you have the chance to meet new people, go places you’ve never been and make connections,” said Mendez. “At the end of the day, I feel rewarded with the experiences I have gained.”

“Every single mission is unique and eye opening,” said Manahan. “You can see the differences in cultures and the world in general. Being on the frontline of it, going on a mission one day and then seeing an article in the New York Times that the Secretary of State passes this bill, and you know that you were there. You were part of that.”