Spc. William Ritter, a military policeman with 287th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, Fort Riley, Kansas, prepares to launch a RQ-11B Raven, a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS), during the Allied Spirit VIII training exercise at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany Jan. 26, 2018. Roughly 4,100 troops from 10 nations are participating in Allied Spirit VIII, a multinational training exercise designed to test participants' readiness and capabilities. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin Biven)

HOHENFELS TRAINING AREA, Germany: In a combat environment, the knowledge of where a threat is could mean the difference between life and death.

The U.S. Army gains the upper hand in identifying where threats are with the use of a lightweight small unmanned aerial system, sUAS, called the RQ-11 Raven.

Military policemen with the 287th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, Fort Riley, Kansas are putting the Raven to use during Allied Spirit VIII at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany from Jan. 15 – Feb. 5, 2018 and enhancing their skills from prior training.

“When people think of military police, they usually associate it with guarding gates and issuing tickets,” said Spc. William Ritter, a military policeman with 287th Military Police Company. “What they might be surprised to know is that in a combat environment we have a hand in the handling of prisoners of war and also use unmanned aircraft to locate possible threats nearby.”

Soldiers who operate the Raven go through a training course that teaches them how to conduct day and night operations with the equipment, as well as how to perform basic maintenance on the system.

Ritter and other Soldiers in his unit are taking their knowledge learned from their training and applying it to the simulated situational training exercises they are conducting in Hohenfels.

“Being able to use the system during Allied Spirit is a great advantage,” said Ritter. “I am able to identify possible hazards or threats in the area almost instantly.”

Allied Spirit immerses Soldiers into a combat-like environment by having them face difficult challenges they might see when deployed in a combat area.

Some of the threats the Soldiers face include small-arms fire, enemy artillery, and enemy surveillance, as well as having to seize enemy-held villages that have civilians.

The Raven system provides Soldiers the ability to view opposing forces, or OPFOR, in their areas of operation. OPFOR are Soldiers who play the role of the enemy for units conducting training at Hohenfels Training Area. The OPFOR give units an experience as close to real combat as possible.

“Having the ability to assess the terrain and situation before exposing troops to hazards is essential,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Rombold, a mentor for troops going through the training. “With the Raven system, you are able to locate and follow high-value targets from a distance without exposing yourself, giving you an advantage and the element of surprise.”

The Raven system is designed for rapid deployment and high mobility. At just over four pounds, its lightweight frame makes transport easy for ground troops. The sUAS has a range up to 10 kilometers from its launch point.

“Once I launch the Raven into the air, it takes off,” said Ritter. “I am able to control it and see where it’s going through a remote control with a screen on it, showing me everything the Raven sees. No matter if its day or night — with the Raven — if there’s a threat, I’ll be able to see it.”