[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        April 25, 2008
Training

Raven provides bird's-eye 
view for ground troops

Story and Photos By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

      A set of Soldier's eyes focused on the skyline. Soaring high and silently up to several thousand feet above the ground.       Soaring for nearly an hour.

      Soaring away from the control box in the hands of a Soldier in a safe location.

Photo: Sgt. Brandon Cook helps the Raven become airborne during robotics training at Fort McCoy. Cook is a member of Company B, 201st Engineer Battalion of the Kentucky Army National Guard. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Sgt. Brandon Cook helps the Raven become airborne during robotics training at Fort McCoy. Cook is a member of Company B, 201st Engineer Battalion of the Kentucky Army National Guard.

      It is all of the above for the Soldier using the U.S. Army's Raven small unmanned aerial vehicle.

      Soldiers training for mobilization are being introduced to and getting significant hands-on experience flying the "spy-in-the-sky."

      The Raven sends back real-time, real- live color television images from its lofty perch, transmitting sharp detailed images of battlefield conditions to a commander safely tucked out of harm's way.

      "Raven is a major combat tool," Sgt. 1st Class Willie Billins said recently. "Its major uses are convoy security, route reconnaissance and battle damage assessment. It is a totally awesome tool.  Why send a Soldier out to scout a situation when you can send a Raven? It shouldn't take much to imagine the importance of sending a Raven instead of sending a Soldier."

      Billins, a senior instructor with the U.S. Army Small Unmanned Aerial Systems School at Fort Benning, Ga., said Raven training is applicable to every military occupational specialty in the Army. Billins and several other Benning instructors also are teaching Raven skills at the Wisconsin Army installation.

Photo: Spc. Ryan Magee monitors the process of the Raven during a Fort McCoy training scenario. Magee is from Company C, 201st Engineer Battalion of the Kentucky Army National Guard. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Spc. Ryan Magee monitors the process of the Raven during a Fort McCoy training scenario. Magee is from Company C, 201st Engineer Battalion of the Kentucky Army National Guard.

       Two-instructor teams are using three separate sites in the Badger Drop Zone on South Post at Fort McCoy. Each site has about six students, each student getting "flight time," although Billins emphasized it is "vehicle operator," not "pilot." The operator has a hand-held control panel with a small television monitor screen and several finger-activated switches.

      Spc. Ryan Magee, a combat engineer with Charlie Company, 201st Engineer Battalion in Ashland, Ky., said, "Raven is a good tool. If a convoy is stopped, Soldiers can put a Raven up in the air and make sure the area around them is clear. Or Soldiers can launch a Raven before they even leave a forward operating base. Raven provides great intelligence for current and future missions."

      Magee is from Lexington, Ky, and has served four years in the Army National Guard. "Raven is great so we won't have any surprises. Using Raven is good for morale and good for the mission because it keeps us safe."

      Magee, training for his first- ever deployment, this one to Operation Enduring Freedom, said, "This is something I need to do. It is a calling. I welcome it. It's a job I need to do."

      Magee is jumping into Army work, having graduated from college in December 2007 with an associate degree as an architectural technician.

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)

 

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