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Blood, sweat, tears: Raven training at Ramstein

Participants in the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course practice combatives on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 29, 2018. Raven instructors assigned to the 421st Combat Training Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, formed a mobile training team to conduct the course at Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Participants in the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course practice combatives on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 29, 2018. Raven instructors assigned to the 421st Combat Training Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, formed a mobile training team to conduct the course at Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Security Forces Airmen practice combatives during a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 29. 2018. Airmen assigned to the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons and the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron took part in a course conducted by a mobile training team from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Security Forces Airmen practice combatives during a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 29. 2018. Airmen assigned to the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons and the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron took part in a course conducted by a mobile training team from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kayla Wadley, bottom, and U.S. Air Force Airman Emmanuel Benitez, both students in a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, participate in a physical training session Jan. 30, 2018. A Raven mobile training team arrived from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to conduct the course on Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kayla Wadley, bottom, and U.S. Air Force Airman Emmanuel Benitez, both students in a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, participate in a physical training session Jan. 30, 2018. A Raven mobile training team arrived from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to conduct the course on Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Security forces Airmen participate in a Raven Qualification Training Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 29, 2017. A mobile training team arrived at Ramstein from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to conduct the course at the request of 86th Airlift Wing and U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa leadership. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Security forces Airmen participate in a Raven Qualification Training Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 29, 2017. A mobile training team arrived at Ramstein from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to conduct the course at the request of 86th Airlift Wing and U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa leadership. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Mann, a student in a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, participates in a physical training session Jan. 30, 2018. While the Raven course usually takes place at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, 86th Airlift Wing and U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa leadership requested for a mobile training team to conduct the course on Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Class Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Mann, a student in a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, participates in a physical training session Jan. 30, 2018. While the Raven course usually takes place at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, 86th Airlift Wing and U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa leadership requested for a mobile training team to conduct the course on Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Class Joshua Magbanua)

Security forces Airmen participate in a combatives class during a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2018. Raven instructors assigned to the 421st Combat Training Squadron on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, formed a mobile training team to conduct the course on Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Joshua Magbanua)

Security forces Airmen participate in a combatives class during a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2018. Raven instructors assigned to the 421st Combat Training Squadron on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, formed a mobile training team to conduct the course on Ramstein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Mcguire, 421st Combat Training Squadron, Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor, conducts a mobile training course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2018. A mobile training team arrived at Ramstein from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to conduct Raven training for three security forces squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Mcguire, 421st Combat Training Squadron, Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor, conducts a mobile training course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2018. A mobile training team arrived at Ramstein from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, to conduct Raven training for three security forces squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.

This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, which is believed by some to be the most rigorous training program in the Air Force security forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers upon the concept of specially-trained security forces Airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.

“The (purpose of the Ravens) is to provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”

This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the Raven program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.

The Raven team came to Ramstein Air Base upon the request of the 86th Airlift Wing and USAFE-AFAFRICA leadership, said Master Sgt. Sean Cunningham, 421st CTS Phoenix Raven Qualification Course director.

While the pressure and stress the instructors push onto the students may seem harsh to some people, it all serves as preparation for the realities they will face during real-world operations, said Cunningham, who served as the team lead for the MTT which went to Ramstein.

"If they are unable to complete the tasks to pass here in training, it casts doubt on their ability to accomplish their duties when they're downrange, possibly tired and stressed with absolutely no one to help them out but themselves," he said.


The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: The 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.

The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.

McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started on Jan. 22.

“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”

Those that do make it through the course are rewarded with an illustrious career and a place among an elite group of security forces Airmen, McGuire added.

“For me personally it’s the most rewarding thing as a security forces member,” McGuire said. “They get to fly with senior government officials, they get to see the world, and… be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number—a number which stays with them for the rest of their career.

As for the students currently taking part in the Raven Qualification Course at Ramstein, they have more obstacles to overcome before they can even see that number. They still have about two more weeks of training before they can call themselves Ravens.

Until then, the instructors will continue to apply pressure.