Story and photos by Senior Airman Harry Brexel, 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command currently operates a fleet of more than 1,100 aircraft, yet only a small number of elite security forces Airmen are responsible for defending and protecting those aircraft and aircrews in locations across the globe.
The Airmen are known as “Phoenix Ravens” and Little Rock Air Force Base is currently home to a handful of these first-class Defenders.
In 2016, four Little Rock Airmen completed the three week long, 12-hour-a-day Phoenix Raven Qualification Course at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. It was the first time in more than ten years that 19th Security Forces Squadron Airmen graduated the course, often called “the House of Pain.”
“The course was by far the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life, both mentally and physically.” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Sutton, 19th SFS Phoenix Raven and patrolman. “But it was a huge achievement being among the first from our base to graduate in a long time.”
After the initial success, the 19th SFS is now preparing more of its Airmen for the notoriously intensive Ravens course.
Three Airmen were hand selected out of approximately 300 Defenders in the squadron, to be tested and see if they have what it takes to endure and graduate Phoenix Raven training.
The 19th SFS Ravens team constructed a weeklong schedule of intensive physical training sessions, defensive maneuver exercises, as well as classroom lessons on cross-cultural awareness, airfield survey techniques, explosive ordnance awareness and aircraft searches.
“When we first arrived for the Ravens course, we were somewhat blindsided,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Catalfano, 19th SFS Phoenix Raven and patrolman. “We didn’t get an opportunity like this to prepare, but now we’re able to use what we learned to set up other Airmen for success.”
In January 2017 alone, U.S. Air Force mobility Airmen flew more than 28,000 missions. Catalfano and other Ravens from Little Rock AFB have already put their training to use in several of those operational missions by performing security, advising aircrews on force protection measures and conducting airfield assessments.
“It feels good to assist in bringing supplies and people to troops in need.” Catalfano said. “We have a direct impact on the mission.”
By the end of the initial Raven’s pre-training week, two 19th SFS Defenders passed the course and will head to New Jersey to attend the official qualification course soon.
If they successfully complete the program, the duo will graduate during the Phoenix Raven program’s 20th anniversary. The Airmen would routinely work with mobility aircrews in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Africa and South America in austere areas with little or no infrastructure.
“We want to build a name for ourselves, keep our graduation rate at 100 percent and generate more Ravens,” Catalfano said. “This is a huge accomplishment for us and it makes us proud of what we do. Above all, it’s fun and exciting.”