Story and Photos By Tom Michele, The Real
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.
from the control box in the hands of a Soldier in a safe location.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
(Michele is a public affairs specialist for
Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base