Norwegian airman graduates Phoenix Raven course

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jamie Powell
  • Expeditionary Center

When a 6’4” bearded Norwegian man chants the words, “A Viking defending with his ax and shield, faithful and strong until the mountain falls,” before he engages in combat, it’s easy to envision a battle scene from over a 1,000 years ago.

Instead, Royal Norwegian Air Force Capt. Karl Otto Kristoffersen is about to engage in his first Redman qualification fight, as part of the Phoenix Raven Course at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Operations School, and will soon face a barrage of attacks by instructors to test his ability in the warrior circle.

“I wanted to motivate everyone, and I think it worked,” said Kristoffersen, who’s a member of the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s security forces.

Kristoffersen was chosen from a group of 11 candidates to lead a multi-national fly away program called Heavy Airlift Wing Combat Security, or HAWCS, at Pápa Air Base, Hungary, in support of the Strategic Airlift Capability.

SAC, established in 2008, is a multi-national program that provides its 12 member nations with assured access to military airlift capability by owning and operating three C-17 Globemaster IIIs. There, Kristoffersen will work in a Raven team, which consists of three U.S. Airmen, two Swedes and one other Norwegian.

Despite his country’s mandatory year of conscription, Kristoffersen, who grew up in Kongsberg, Norway, never gave much thought to a career in the military. Knowing he wanted to stay close to home, he applied for an NCO course with the King’s Guard that would station him in nearby Oslo.

“At the time, I was too fat,” Kristoffersen said laughing, “So they sent me up north to do my mandatory guard duty.”

After his time in the “cold, dark North,” he went on to a security forces NCO course in Kjevik, after which he was assigned as team lead for a quick reaction unit. In 2010, he applied and was accepted to the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy.

Shortly after arriving at Pápa AB, he was told he had to take the Phoenix Raven course and before he could finish in-processing his new unit, Kristoffersen was on a plane to New Jersey.

“When I asked them what that course was, they just told me it was really tough and that I should start doing a lot of physical training,” Kristoffersen said.

Before arriving, fellow Ravens at Pápa AB prepared Kristoffersen for the course by working with him on his PT and giving him an introduction to use-of-force techniques, baton movements and verbal judo, a technique used by Ravens to de-escalate a potential threat.

“It’s the first class I’ve taken in the U.S., and it’s by far, the toughest course I’ve ever been to,” Kristoffersen said.

He went on to describe the course as being structured similarly to the boot camp he went through in 2007, and he quickly realized he had to let go of any ego, go with the flow and do his best throughout the course. Kristoffersen’s efforts did not go unnoticed as he excelled in both the Redman qualification test and PT throughout the course.

“He’s eager to learn, shows a lot of effort and it’s obvious he wants to be here,” said Staff Sgt. Adonteng Evans, a Phoenix Raven instructor with the 421st Combat Training Squadron. “Even though some of our PT regime was not what he’s was used to, I never saw him quit.”

During the intense 22-day course, instructors cover such subjects as cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, airfield survey techniques, explosive ordnance awareness, aircraft searches, and unarmed self-defense techniques. Students are exposed to more than 70 use-of-force scenarios where stress is simulated using role players. Training includes instruction and realistic practical exercises in antiterrorism, force protection, weapon system security, verbal judo, combatives, tactical baton employment and advanced firearms proficiency.

“I think the most important skill I acquired [during this course] was the verbal judo,” Kristoffersen said after graduating. “I started to understand the importance of how to generate voluntary compliance in austere environments; it will be an essential part of my job.”

Before Kristoffersen, service members from New Zealand, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force as well as two others from Norway attended the course. Kristoffersen, being the third Airman from his country to graduate, earned Raven number N03.  

“I think the partnerships are great because aircraft security is not just a challenge for U.S. forces,” said Lt. Col. Scott Davis, the 421st Combat Training Squadron commander. “Having partner nations with a Raven-like capability is a great force multiplier for contingency operations around the world.”

During the Aug. 29 graduation ceremony, Davis addressed the newly appointed Ravens and gave them their charge.

“The world needs you,” Davis said. “Turn on the news any given day and you can see what’s going on out there. We need you because there’s a demand from the most senior leaders of our country and our coalition to send aircraft into harm’s way to do our nation’s work.”

Kristoffersen will soon return to Pápa AB, where he’ll once again join his fellow Ravens, but this time, he’ll return a fully qualified Raven himself, capable of providing the essential leadership for the fly-away security team there.