News: MPs keep eye in sky
Story by Sgt. Francis Horton
FORT McCOY, Wis. – On the battlefield, having the most up-to-date intelligence on enemy movements can be the difference between the success or failure of a mission.
For the 354th Military Police Company out of Saint Louis, there is an easily deployed eye-in-the-sky ready for use in a Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, known better as the Raven.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to get these up in the air since these guys have gotten back from (Raven) training,” said Capt. Danny Thornhill, commander of the 354th MP Co. and native of Jefferson City, Mo.
Watching the soldiers pull the pieces of the Raven out of its bag, one could easily mistake it for a radio-controlled airplane used by hobbyists. The wings and tail snap together, attaching to the fuselage. The Raven also has a controller with joysticks and directional pads to fly it in the air.
But make no mistake; this piece of equipment can help Soldiers see hidden dangers and threats ahead.
“You can use it for scouting missions. You can fly over an area you’re getting ready to go … so you know what you’re getting into,” said Cpl. Kenneth Hill, military police officer and Raven operator with the 354th MP Company, and native of Robertsville, Mo.
The capabilities don’t stop there.
“I can actually be in a vehicle, flying it from the vehicle in front of the convoy so we have a real-time idea of what’s coming up in front of us,” Hill said.
The Raven can fly up to 10,000 feet above sea level for about an hour and a half. The altitude, coupled with a quiet, battery powered engine help the UAV scout ahead with minimum chance of detection.
“You can fly over an area, and if you don’t want to be detected, you kill the engine, glide it in, see what you need to see and glide it out again,” Hill said.
Cameras on the front and side of the Raven send video and photos back to the flight controller as well as a computer.
Getting the chance to train with the Raven can be challenging, as it requires a clear airspace to operate, which can be difficult to come by, Hill said.
However, the system comes with a training simulation, allowing the operators to pull out the equipment any time and practice, though nothing can substitute for the real thing.
“It was a good refamiliarization for us,” Hill said. “Letting the commander see what we can do with it.”
Currently, the 354th has four soldiers trained to operate the Raven system.
The 354th is participating in Warrior Exercise 86 at Fort McCoy, Wis., for their Extended Combat Training. Along with flying the Raven, the Soldiers are focusing on other important parts of their job.
“Our main focus is on (Internment Resettlement) tasks since we fall under an IR battalion,” said Thornhill.
The members of the 354th are working to sharpen their skills on convoy operations, enemy prisoner of war internment and quelling civil disturbances.