By Sgt. Liane Hatch | 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. — The RQ-11 Raven Small Unmanned Aircraft System, a versatile tool used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, is only as effective as the person operating it.
That’s why Raven-trained NCOs from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, have spent the past few weeks refreshing their skills with classroom training and flight time.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Floyd, the brigade’s unmanned aircraft system officer, said the training he and eight 3rd ABCT Raven operators conducted was intended to recertify and progress select NCOs.
“Our goal here is to get these guys recertified, progress them to mission qualified status and have them gain some experience in preparation for the Raven master trainer course at Fort Benning, (Georgia), so we can get some more master trainers within the brigade,” Floyd said. “I’d say they’re all 99 percent ready to go to the course; we just need to get some more hours in, and that’s part of what we’re doing out here.”
The classroom part of the recertification training began in late May, and in order to limit Soldier contact and maintain social distancing, Floyd said the Soldiers alternated training days in small groups for the hands-on, actual flight time portions of the training.
Staff Sgt. Michael Desiano, an electronic warfare specialist with the brigade headquarters, said the training has been valuable. After first becoming Raven-qualified about four years ago at his previous unit in Alaska, Desiano said he hasn’t flown in seven or eight months.
“With the Raven, if you don’t use it you lose it,” he said. “A lot of this stuff has been mostly refresher training, but they’ve done a great job at planning it out.”
Desiano explained that in the first week of classroom training, the operators reviewed the head’s up display, specifications of emergency procedures and “all the basics we need to have down in order to fly.”
Then, he added, they moved on to flight time, where they’ve been working on Raven mission-essential tasks and progression.
“Being able to get hands-on training with the system again has helped a lot,” Desiano said. “Ultimately we’re all going to walk away mission-qualified, so we’ll be able to help out when the brigade needs us to fly.”
According to Floyd, the brigade currently owns 18 Raven systems, which are distributed through the battalions and squadrons and used according to the unit mission essential task list (METL).
“Different units will need the Raven system to do different things — you can use it for reconnaissance, or maybe you need a battle damage assessment,” Floyd said. “There are all kinds of tasks that you can learn as an operator that will support that METL.”