Throwing paper planes isn’t just for kids

Spc. Danny Gherzgiher, a scout with 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, operates a Raven unmanned aerial vehicle, via computer, during training at McGregor Range, New Mexico, June 25. Photos by Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus, 1st BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs.

Spc. Danny Gherzgiher, a scout with 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, operates a Raven unmanned aerial vehicle, via computer, during training at McGregor Range, New Mexico, June 25. Photos by Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus, 1st BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs.

By Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus, 1st BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:

Many children grow up playing with paper airplanes. They do their best to fold the paper to create optimum aerodynamics. The young aviators compete to see who can throw it farther and have the flight last the longest. Their unmanned creations crash, but, undaunted, the children do it over and over again.

For some Soldiers in 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, playing with “model planes” has become an everyday task as they train to become certified Raven operators.

Sgt. Brandon Ernst, an automated logistic specialist with HHC, 501st BSB, 1st BCT, 1st AD, assembles a Raven during training at McGregor Range, New Mexico, June 25. Ernst participated in an 80-hour course to become a Raven operator.

Sgt. Brandon Ernst, an automated logistic specialist with HHC, 501st BSB, 1st BCT, 1st AD, assembles a Raven during training at McGregor Range, New Mexico, June 25. Ernst participated in an 80-hour course to become a Raven operator.

“The Raven is a small, unmanned aerial vehicle,” said Sgt. 1st Class Elidio Avila, the brigade’s Raven master trainer. “You throw it up in the air so you don’t have to have Soldiers out in the open. You can get battle damage assessment. You can do force protection with it and convoy security so you have better eyes out in front of you.”

Ravens come equipped with cameras for surveillance, and can be controlled via computer from nearly ten miles away. The lightweight planes crash into the ground on impact and can be reassembled and relaunched.

Avila, the electronic warfare noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the brigade, instructs students during an 80-hour course on the operation and maintenance of the Raven.

“It’s basically like a Game Boy Advance,” said Pvt. David Stewart, a Raven operator trainee.

“You can control everything from where the bird is going, to the different types of flight modes, as well as the throttle and altitude.”

As an infantryman from Company A, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Stewart was one of several Soldiers chosen to become an operator, and so far, he has enjoyed learning a new skill.

“I like it,” said Stewart. “It is a cool job to be able to do out in the field.”

Avila has been a Raven operator since 2006, and has had more than his fair share of flight time, giving him the credentials to become a master trainer and pass his knowledge on to new Soldiers.

“I love teaching,” said Avila. “I love instructing and sharing my knowledge with other Soldiers. Handing my knowledge out to new Soldiers is a good experience.”

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