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NEWS | July 22, 2022

Guard Soldiers train with Unmanned Aerial System team

By Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Reno, 138th Field Artillery Brigade

Soldiers from the 138th Field Artillery Brigade and other units across Kentucky participated in a Raven Small Unmanned Aerial System (SUAS) training event May 13-15, 2022.  
 
The training was conducted by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joe Alexander and Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Welch from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. and Staff Sgt. Gaylon Johnson, who is the only master trainer in the KYARNG.
 
The RQ-11B Raven is a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) that provides reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and force protection for the battalion commander and below during day and night operations. The Raven is roughly 4.2 pounds and has a wingspan of 4.5 feet. It can operate up to 10km away depending on battery and signal strength but can also be handed off while in the air to another operator at a distant end. The video feed comes back to the team on the ground and then can be streamed through a Global Broadcast System (GBS) for command staff to watch live. 
 
“The training we conducted was crucial to restart the Raven program for the 138th,” said Welch. “The Raven is a crucial tool for commanders to maintain situational awareness. During Large Scale Combat Operations battalions and below will have to be more self-reliant, utilizing their organic SUAS assets to provide Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA).” 
 
He also went on to say that for an Artillery Brigade the Raven can perform aerial over-watch of current firing positions as well as assessing the feasibility of follow-on positions up to 10 kilometers (6.2 mi.) away. Equipped with an infrared (IR) camera, the Raven can identify hostile threats day or night giving commanders the ability to quickly understand and react to emerging threats on the ground.
 
For the first time in the history of 138th FAB, it will be standing up a small team of Raven qualified operators to conduct convoy route and site security during field training exercises. Staff Sgt. Johnson will be the one to lead that team and train the other operators. 
 
“I had several big wins I wanted to accomplish during my command time and getting this team stood up is one of those. This a big win for us and the Kentucky Army National Guard,” said Army Lt. Col. Steve Mattingly, commander of the 138th. 
 
For Johnson, he is looking forward to the challenge and wants to share his knowledge with the Soldiers he will be instructing. 
 
“I want to help in any way possible, I have a passion for this and I want to share what I can,” he said.  
 
The Raven can be piloted manually or be auto piloted and automatically follow a flight path created beforehand. But before flight can happen, it must be successfully thrown into air by one of the operators while the other ensures it takes flight. In some cases, it doesn’t, and the one controlling it must quickly shut the aircraft down prior to it “crash landing”. The Raven is meant to endure a rough landing as it has no wheels or landing features. It falls apart on impact to protect itself to include the gimbal and camera system. 
 
“It’s really odd to see it explode when it lands or even crash lands and you can just simply put it back together and throw it all over again,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip Krepss, a satellite communications non-commissioned officer with the 138th. “Throwing the Raven is a lot easier than it looks or sounds. The aircraft wants to fly; you just got to get it in the air.”
 
The Raven SUAS program fits into the Army’s modernization strategy by improving long range precisions fires and enabling the 138th FAB to penetrate and neutralize enemy capabilities.
 
 

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