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North Carolina Air National Guard Ravens—A Class of Their Own

Photo of the official Air Force Raven Patch

Photo of the official Air Force Raven Patch

06/21/2018 – CHARLOTTE, N.C. – -- Treading on the heels of a recent Safety Down Day, where the North Carolina Air National Guard briefed aircraft and mission safety, the 145th Security Forces Squadron graduated four Raven apprentices in a first-ever, 4-day, pre-Phoenix Raven Indoctrination class, June 10, 2018, held at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

The class, put together by North Carolina Air National Guard Phoenix Raven Program Manager, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Timothy Van Dyke, and deputy managers Master Sgt. James Newman II, and Tech. Sgt. Mark Dow, focuses on getting their apprentices mentally and physically prepped for the mandatory 22-day Phoenix Raven Qualification Course that is held at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and run by the 421st Combat Training Squadron. The three-week, 12-hour-a-day Phoenix Raven Qualification Course covers subjects like cross-cultural awareness, embassy operations, legal considerations, airfield survey techniques, aircraft searches, explosive ordnance awareness, and unarmed self-defense techniques. 

“All active duty Air Mobility Command bases give a 2-week prep-course, so we decided to do a 4-day mock of what they cover where we can give the apprentices an idea of what challenges they’ll face to make sure they’re ready,” said Van Dyke. 


The purpose of the Phoenix Raven program is to provide security for aircraft and aircrew in any forward location where danger or hostility is eminent, and locations where the local government offers little to no support. Two incidents in 1996 helped push the program into existence; two young boys from Mongolia were found to have stowed away in the wheel-well of a C-141 B Starlifter aircraft that landed at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, and the other occurrence was located at a Senegalese Airfield where an aircraft was damaged while host nation forces guarded it. The Phoenix Raven program started in 1997 and following 2001, the North Carolina Air National Guard sent some of their defenders to be trained in the Phoenix Raven course.

“The activities we offer in our indoctrination class include two-three miles runs, calisthenics exceeding 100-three count reps like flutter kicks and burpees, asp baton training, verbal Judo, and memorizing the Airmen’s Creed and Raven Pledge in one day after working 12-16 hour days,” said Dow.

To be a Raven, the defender must be at least a Senior Airman, with a score of 90 or more on their physical training test, and they have to have their professional military education completed. Ravens must volunteer for the position and, once they apply, are then considered by a team for the honor of Raven. 

“I wanted to be a Raven ever since I knew what one was, maybe seven years ago, but the opportunity never presented itself. I feel like as a cop, this is the next level for us and it is challenging and exciting,” said Tech. Sgt. Ashleigh Gray, Phoenix Raven Indoctrination apprentice.

The program managers and apprentices are used to working side by side every month so naturally, it’s a change from the normal office camaraderie that veers into the reminiscent basic training situation where your co-worker or supervisor is now your military training instructor and you are fresh meat. 

“The biggest thing is that you have to compartmentalize; you know everyone here and you see them on the weekends…then it switches and they tell you they aren’t your friend and they’re yelling, but you have to remember they are preparing you for the school-house. You have to mind-over-matter it,” said Staff Sgt. Dillon Haynes, Phoenix Raven Indoctrination apprentice.

“All the physical, asp baton, and red-suit training is just scratching the surface of what will be at the school and so we are a little sore and humbled by the physical training,” said Gray.
When it comes to implementing their newfound skills, the apprentices have a good understanding of what situations they may encounter and how to apply what they’ve learned.

“You’re an ambassador for the United States of America to these other countries that have possibly never dealt with uniformed personnel. These people may come up to you, and it’s nothing for them to wear an AK-47 strapped to their shoulders; it humbles you with what you have here in the U.S. compared to the other countries,” said Haynes.

Once the apprentices finish the Phoenix Raven Qualification course, they will continue to hone their skills every month to remain vigilant and alert.
“I look forward to taking the life skills learned and being pushed past my limit so I’ll be ready for any encounter,” said Gray.