Expeditionary Center instructor shares rigors of security forces Raven training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
An aerospace ground equipment craftsman, Tech. Sgt. David Balista had no reason to train as a security forces Airman. That is, until now. 

"I wanted some training that would help me improve as an instructor," he said.  

Sergeant Balista became only the 10th non-security forces Airman to graduate the Air Force Phoenix Raven Training Course 08-D at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center on Fort Dix, N.J., from Aug. 5 to 22. The course, taught by the USAF EC's 421st Combat Training Squadron where Balista serves as a contingency skills training instructor, has been a mainstay in the USAF EC for more than 11 years.  

"As the only non-security forces Raven in this past class, it made things a little more difficult for me," Sergeant Balista said. "In many instances, I was learning things for the first time." 

Much of the training Sergeant Balista learned is not easy, said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Thompson, Raven course director at the 421st.  

"Ravens are put in a stressful environment to handle situations professionally and tactfully," Sergeant Thompson said. "The extensive training includes unarmed defense tactics, application of the force continuum, less-than-lethal-force weapons, anti-hijacking and firearms training." 

Overall, Sergeant Balista received nearly 130 hours of instruction. That included more than 50 hours of classroom academics along with anti-terrorism, combatives, collapsible baton, weapons and scenario training. In addition, he had to pass a rigorous physical training regimen. 

"I now have a different perspective on physical fitness, thanks to Raven. And, my fellow cadre at the 421st will learn the difference of what they can do for physical training," Sergeant Balista said referring to his unit physical training leader duties. 

Sergeant Balista also has newfound respect for his fellow cadre.  

"I work with the Raven instructors on a daily basis for other courses within the 421st," Sergeant Balista said. 

"We all work hard and play hard, but now I am also very impressed with their knowledge and skill." 

Sergeant Balista wasn't required to take the training but, and the end of three weeks, he graduated with 41 others. It is unclear, however, if he will get a Raven number assigned to him as they are generally assigned to security forces only.  

"I do not know if I will get a Raven number," Sergeant Balista said referring to the possibility. "But, I hope to be able to so I can help my fellow Airmen." 

In another way, however, Sergeant Balista said he will be able help his fellow Airmen -- the Airmen he trains in the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course and his fellow cadre in the 421st CTS.  

"I know this training has made me a better Airman," Sergeant Balista said. "I also know it's made my abilities better as an instructor. The people who will benefit the most from this training besides me, will be my students."  

According to Sergeant Thompson, the definition of a Raven is "an Airman, Sailor, or Soldier who has readily accepted the responsibility to ensure the success of our force protection mission. They are all volunteers and are prepared to travel at a moment's notice anywhere around the world to protect Department of Defense assets for as long as it takes to complete the mission."