Air Force Security Forces - Phoenix Raven

The murder crew is an elite aircraft security program

Two RAF Pilots in Helicopter
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Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program, implemented in 1997, consists of teams of specially trained security forces personnel dedicated to providing security for AMC aircraft that transit high terrorist and criminal threat areas. They have the nickname of Murder Crews from the term given to a flock of ravens. They are not considered to be a Special Operations Force, but they are an elite, specialized group.

Mission of Phoenix Raven

The Phoenix Raven program ensures an acceptable level of close-in security for aircraft transiting airfields where security is unknown or additional security is needed to counter local threats.

Concept of Operations

Teams of two to four specially trained and equipped security forces personnel deploy as aircrew members on AMC missions as designated by the AMC Threat Working Group. The Raven teams help detect, deter and counter threats to AMC aircraft by performing close-in aircraft security; advising aircrews on force protection measures; conducting airfield assessments, and assisting aircrews in the performance of their duties when not performing their primary security duties.

Phoenix Raven teams work on all types of AMC airlift missions including theater support missions, contingencies, exercises or deployments. Other Air Force major commands, including Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Air Forces in Europe have sent a select number of security force members to AMC’s Phoenix Raven training course. In addition to those missions specifically identified by the AMC/TWG, wing commanders may also direct Phoenix Raven teams accompany home-station airlift and tanker missions. Ultimately, however, a Phoenix Raven team on an airlift mission is an assigned aircrew member and reports to the aircraft commander.

Organization of Phoenix Raven Program

The HQ AMC Director of Security Forces is the focal point for all Phoenix Raven operations supporting AMC airlift operations. On behalf of the AMC/SF Director, a Phoenix Raven Program Manager serves within the staff as the interface between the headquarters’ staff and the units. In addition to the Raven Program Manager, the AMC/SF Contingency Branch coordinates with other major commands and Air Reserve Component Security Forces to ensure Raven-trained personnel are available at overseas en route locations to support AMC missions unexpectedly diverted.

AMC has over 200 active-duty Raven trained security forces members assigned to bases nationwide. A small portion of the trained force is maintained at Little Rock AFB and Dyess AFB and limited bases within the European and Pacific Theaters. Besides the active-duty corps, the AFRES and ANG community also maintain Raven trained personnel to support their significant contribution to the airlift missions throughout the world.

Training for Phoenix Raven

The Phoenix Ravens sole training course is conducted by the 421st Ground Combat Readiness Squadron at the United States Air Force Expeditionary Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The intensive three-week 12 hour a day course covers such subjects as cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, airfield survey techniques, explosive ordnance awareness, aircraft searches, and unarmed self-defense techniques. Phoenix Raven training is designed to provide security forces members with the skills required for their unique mission and builds on the basic security force skills taught at the SF academy.

The first Ravens graduated AMWC in February 1997. Since then, more than 2000 Air Force security forces have graduated from the Phoenix Raven Course. Upon graduation, graduates are issued a lifetime numeric identifier for their accomplishment.

History of Phoenix Raven

In the aftermath of the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 and as a result of other serious events around the world, the former AMC Commander Gen Walter Kross implemented the Phoenix Raven Program in February 1997. Since then, Ravens from within the command and Raven-trained security forces from outside the command, have accompanied AMC missions to international hot spots around the globe and served in Afghanistan and Iraq.


As a group, the Phoenix Raven program has been identified for the innovative approach to force protection. In 1999, the program earned honors as DoD’s Most Outstanding Antiterrorism Innovation or Action in the command category. The program also received the Federal Executive Board (St. Louis Chapter) Year 2000 Team Performance Award. Since the Phoenix Raven has been an integral part of the Threat Working Group process, AMC Staff Members have been honored for their contribution to the Air Force and AMC intelligence community for planning and executing Phoenix Raven missions. In addition to program management awards, three members assigned to AMC/SF were awarded the Air Force’s Outstanding Intelligence Contributor Award.