Unmanned system to offer combat multiplier Raven class: Soldiers train on Army’s newest equipment, enhance unit mission
Spc. Bradley J. Clark
4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs
As the hot El Paso sun beats down on Soldiers out on McGregor Range, N.M., a small group is being trained on some of the U.S. Army’s newest and vital equipment.
Six Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division took a two-week course on the Raven small unmanned aircraft system, to add a combat multiplier to their units July 26 through Aug. 6.
For Soldiers currently in Iraq serving in an advise-and-assist role, the Raven has different values compared to the Soldiers defending against fire-fights in Afghanistan.
“The Raven would have come in handy for the mission we had in Iraq, supporting the provincial reconstruction teams,” said Sgt. Kyle Roach, a cannon crewmember from Crown Point, Ind., serving with B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “This would have been good to analyze projected job sites and plan missions.”
Regardless of what the Raven is used for, the Army is pushing their trainers out to teach Soldiers proficiency so each unit has the ability to use the system for any purpose they deem necessary.
“Our main purpose is to give the Army more pilots, which in turn provides the commanders with more combat multipliers in a deployment zone” said Staff Sgt. Henry Estorga, the senior instructor for the small unmanned aircraft system from San Diego, serving in the 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 197th Infantry Brigade stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. “Right now we go to about 30 different duty stations in a year to teach the 14-day course.”
Depending on the size of the class, the course can be shortened in time without compromising the knowledge needed to be successful with the Raven.
“The course is based on student progression, but we don’t cut anything out of it,” said Estorga. “We look for the students to have creativity with mission planning and will allow a lot of liberties when creating mission scenarios, but that is for them to understand the full limitations of the system. They need to know that so they don’t put themselves or others at risk.”
The Soldiers enrolled in this course here seem familiar with that vital fact, and emphasized their comprehension of the training.
“They hit the point[s] on what the Raven can and can’t do, making sure that we have the right amount of knowledge on the bird,” said Spc. Robert Toshoff, a cannon crew member from Missoula, Mont., with B Battery, 2nd Bn., 29th FA Regt., 4th BCT, 1st Armored Div. “I think the hardest part of the class was also the most important and that was trying to retain all of the information on the Raven; but you keep getting drilled by the instructors until it becomes second nature. We are running our missions now, without having the instructors have to tell us step-by-step how to do everything like they did in the beginning.”
Even though this class was small, the students walked away with enough knowledge to help train their brothers in arms.
“The training was very good,” said Roach. “The classes were long but we needed it to have a positive outcome with this valuable asset to the U.S. Army. … “I feel I could definitely train other Soldiers and I look forward to getting that opportunity.”