JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Ten Airmen with the 628th Security Forces Squadron tried out for positions as Phoenix Ravens Jan. 31 – Feb. 1, 2018, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Former Air Mobility Command Commander, Gen. Walter Kross, implemented the Phoenix Raven program in February 1997. The program consists of specially trained security forces members responsible for providing security to AMC aircraft transiting high threat areas.
The two-day tryouts pushed Airmen to their physical and emotional limits through various physical training exercises. After hours of rigorous PT, also known as ‘smoke sessions’, candidates are expected to apply learned striking techniques in the RedMan qualification bouts. RedMan Training Gear is worn by the Phoenix Raven instructors. The training suits, a vibrant red color, protect the instructors from strikes delivered by Phoenix Raven candidates. The ‘RedMan’ challenges Airmen to call on their defense skills and allows instructors to see who has the desire for the career field. The attrition rate for this training was 50 percent.
“The idea with these tryouts is to take a course the schoolhouse designed and get the candidates through a mirror program,” said Staff Sgt. Jarred Alford, 628th SFS Phoenix Raven team lead. “This way, when candidates leave Charleston for the next step of training, they have an idea of what to expect at school and are more mentally prepared.”
The Phoenix Raven program mission, according to AMC, is to ensure an acceptable level of close-in security for aircraft transiting airfields where security is either unknown, or additional security is needed to counter local threats. Phoenix Ravens are sometimes placed in high-stress situations, which is why it is essential for candidates to display resiliency and mental stability.
“Being able to maintain mental toughness is crucial,” said Alford. “Your mind goes before your body. Without mental toughness, you give up on yourself before your body does. When I went through training, my teammates never quit on me so I never quit on them. We look for the same in our candidates.”
Since the program’s foundation, Phoenix Raven teams from within the AMC have conducted more than 6,000 missions around the world combating terrorism. These teams work on all types of AMC airlift missions including theater support missions, contingencies, exercises and deployments.
“There were many times I thought I couldn’t do it anymore,” said Airman 1st Class Caleb Gunter, 628th SFS installation entry controller. “I couldn’t quit on my team. Even though this training was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I really enjoyed the experience.”
Once completing the course, new Phoenix Ravens receive their patch and a distinct member number based on the order in which they were accepted into the unit.
“These tryouts gave me a better sense of what Ravens are made of,” said Senior Airman Gunter. “I may not be at their level yet but I’m going to keep pushing to get there. Ravens are constantly under pressure but are still able to make the mission happen because pain is only temporary. You just have to keep telling yourself that you can make it, and if you truly have the drive for it, you will.”
The attrition rate for this training was 50 percent. According to Alford, the success rate of those sent to the schoolhouse is 100 percent.
“This training really pushed me to my limits,” said Gunter. “The experience and comradery really humbled me as a person. There were moments that sucked, but at the end of the day those moments build you as a person and show you who you are and what you’re made of.”