AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
Security Forces is the largest career field in the U.S. Air Force and debatably one of the most diverse. Members are specifically trained on security, defense, law enforcement, combat arms and military working dogs. For some defenders, they are presented the opportunity to expand even further into one of these specialized jobs they may not have known were possible for them.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Rutherford, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of Raven B operations, has witnessed this first hand after being tasked to operate the RQ-11B, or Raven B as it’s commonly known, Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS).
“I wasn’t aware that Security Forces had a hand in drone operations until I was tasked for this deployment,” said Rutherford. “I always assumed that drone operations were handled solely by a separate career field, so coming to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, and perfoming drone operations was a completely new frontier to me.”
The Raven B team is attached to the security forces flight at AUAB, meaning operators continue their typical duties along with their new, SUAS responsibilities.
“We fly multiple flights during our flying days, which allows us to constantly stay prepared,” added Airman 1st Class Tucker Pfeiffer, a 379th ESFS SUAS operator. “Weather changes and time of day all are variables in our flight and we try to get as much experience with these conditions, while also maintaining our daily tasks in SFS.”
SUAS, such as the Raven B, are used by militaries worldwide to conduct low-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
At AUAB, the primary mission for the team is force protection, however, the drone has been flown for real-world missions to include conducting airfield assessments and post-storm damage analysis.
“Our primary job is to augment the 379th ESFS force protection mission, but we have also been used to conduct sandstorm damage assessments across the airfield and to capture images in response to increased Force Protection Conditions,” said Rutherford.
The drone and all of its equipment is broken down into what Rutherford calls, ‘go bags’ to ensure rapid response should the need arise.
“By continuously training with the system and having our equipment ready to go, we are able to have a Raven in the air within 30 minutes of receiving a call, retrieving equipment, driving to our launch site and assembling the drone,” Rutherford said.
A Raven can be hand launched nearly anywhere on base at any time of day while weighing less than five pounds. Flying manually or autonomously, providing real-time video and having a gimbal camera system with day time/night time capabilities are only a few benefits offered by the Raven B.
According to Rutherford, being an operator has its challenges, but it also has its rewards.
“The opportunity to experience a completely new facet of the [SF] career field by operating reconnaissance drones has be very rewarding to me,” said Rutherford.
Pfeiffer also added this deployment has given him an amazing opportunity to utilize and familiarize himself with the equipment especially since a lot of security forces squadrons are adapting the program.
By having and utilizing the Raven B and other SUAS like it, military forces are equipped with capabilities allowing above ground points of view, high-definition day time and night time vision observed through multiple zoom lens and thermal imagery while also charging security forces members out of their comfort zone to learn a new level of force protection.
“Security Forces is an amazing career field,” stated Pfeiffer. “The Raven B is one of the many useful tools that allow us to perform flawlessly while allowing us as operators to see things from overhead and make safe decisions for those on the ground.”