Usually, at the end of a training class, it is the students who receive awards, but this time it was the instructors.

Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PMA-263) Training and Logistics Support Activity (TALSA)-West instructors Bill Peek and Christian Tobler received an esteemed Marine Corps reconnaissance paddle from their students at the completion of their RQ-11B Raven course in October at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.


The paddle dates back to WWII Marine “Raiders” who were predecessors to the reconnaissance Marines and performed amphibious operations. A primary part of their mission was using rafts, so every individual was issued a paddle and they kept it with them throughout their careers.

“We are honored to be part of this unit, and honestly once I saw the young presenters tearing up and clearing their throats to talk, it was a huge reminder to me of the symbolism and significance of what was going on,” Peek said. “We should all be ‘rowing’ in the same direction.”

The presentation of the paddle is usually reserved for a reconnaissance Marine that is leaving active duty, or has been killed in action. The event, known as a paddle party, involves wrapping the handle in parachute cord, representing parachute and free-fall operations.

He and Tobler were presented the paddle for their ability to overcome significant challenges that could have canceled the training course.

TALSA Team Lead, Irma Alexander said they endured delays due to severe thunderstorms and rain, 40 mph wind gusts, interruptions from range control due to flying frequency and air traffic, government furloughs limiting the staff’s availability, and still the instructors completed the course on time.

“I am extremely proud of our TALSA instructors who went above and beyond to ensure this Marine unit received their Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems certification