Who are the Phoenix-Ravens?

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kylee Tyus
  • 62d Airlift Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – In 1997, U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command implemented the Phoenix Raven program. This program consists of teams of specially trained security forces personnel dedicated to providing force protection for Mobility Air Force aircraft transiting through austere locations with potentially high terrorist and criminal threat levels.

“Our job when we’re on the ground is to assess the force protection needed,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Demytreus Gipson-Hollinshed, Phoenix-Raven team lead with the 627th Security Forces Squadron. “We look at all possible deficiencies, security risks, fencing and things of that nature to determine whether or not there are any potential risks that would cause harm or danger to the crew or assets.”

Along with basic military training, and security forces technical training, these Airmen must complete additional 18-day training at Joint Base MaGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey in order to earn the title ‘Phoenix-Raven.’ Every day consists of 12 hours of intense physical training, use-of-force scenarios, and written evaluations in order to complete the program.

“In the schoolhouse we study verbal judo, weapon takeaway, self-defense techniques and additionally we go over in-class materials that consist of cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations and airfield survey techniques and more,” said Airman 1st Class Dyon Wilkes, a Phoenix-Raven with the 627th SFS. “It prepares us for any situation that we may encounter while we’re out on missions.”

Phoenix-Ravens within the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Federal Air Marshal Service serve as subject matter experts, responsible for advising aircrews on force protection measures among many other things. Since its implementation, approximately 3,200 Air Force Security Forces Airmen have graduated from the Phoenix-Raven Qualification Course, and 17 of them are here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

With less than 15% of Phoenix-Ravens being female, Wilkes takes pride in her significant achievement in completing the program.

“It’s empowering being a female in a predominantly male career, especially in an elite group such as the Ravens,” said Wilkes. “It goes to show that a women can do just as much as men can do.”

According to Gipson-Hollinshed, it takes a very self-sufficient and disciplined Airmen to be a Phoenix-Raven. They are trained to be able to carry out a mission by themselves if the circumstances require it.

During Operation ALLIES REFUGE, more than 150 Phoenix-Ravens and Fly Away Security members were positioned to secure every Mobility Air Force aircraft supporting the mission.

Phoenix-Raven Airmen go above and beyond to detect, deter, and counter all threats to Mobility Air Force Aircraft by performing close in-aircraft security and providing flight deck denial to on-board threats.

“Our deployed mission is dependent on where we’re at,” says Gipson-Holinshed. “When I was in Afghanistan in 2019, I was helping the Afghan Air Force learn how to defend themselves, so our pilots would teach their pilots how to fly Black Hawk Helicopters and my job was to teach them how to shoot M249s out of the Black Hawks.”

While being a Phoenix-Raven Airmen takes resilience, these Airmen have the unique opportunity to travel around the world and experience different cultures along the way as they support airlift missions around the world.

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to travel the world and talk to people from different cultures,” said Wilkes. “In some areas, there’s obviously a language barrier, but I’ve managed to work with. I love visiting and learning about local areas.”