Warfighters exemplify true grit for Air Assault

| July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
U.S. Army Soldiers rappel from an UH-60 Black Hawk as part of the 25th Infantry Division Lightning Academy’s Air Assault School June 23, 2016, at the East Training Range, Hawaii.  Soldiers tackle physical and mental challenges during the school including an obstacle course, a 12 mile march with full gear, written and hands on exams, pathfinder operations, sling load operations and rappelling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Soldiers rappel from an UH-60 Black Hawk as part of the 25th ID Lightning Academy’s Air Assault School, June 23, at the East Training Range, Schofield Barracks. Candidates tackle physical and mental challenges during the school, including an obstacle course, a 12-mile march with full gear, written and hands on exams, pathfinder and sling load operations, and rappelling.

Story and photos by Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal
Defense Media Activity — Forward Center Hawaii

 

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — A thunderous cadence of “Air Assault, Air Assault, Air Assault!” can be heard when Soldiers tackle physical and mental challenges standing between them and the earning of the Air Assault Badge.

The 25th Infantry Division’s Lightning Academy is one location where Soldiers can see what it takes to become an Air Assault Soldier in the U.S. Army.

More than 100 Soldiers, one Airman, and one Marine charged, climbed, and rappelled through 12 days of meticulous instruction from June 13 – June 24. The course included aircraft orientation, pathfinder operations, close combat attack, assembling and disassembling sling loads, and the basics of rappelling operations.

U.S. Army Soldiers rappel off of a tower as part of the 25th Infantry Division Lightning Academy’s Air Assault School June 21, 2016, at the East Training Range, Hawaii.  Soldiers tackle physical and mental challenges during the school including an obstacle course, a 12 mile march with full gear, written and hands on exams, pathfinder operations, sling load operations and rappelling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Rappel tower,  June 21.

Sgt. Samnith Thy, Lightning Academy, Air Assault School Phase 3 instructor, explained the transformation he sees most Soldiers go through during the course.

“The students that come, they leave their comfort zone,” Thy said. “They come to our school not knowing what to expect. They leave with attention to detail; they leave with overcoming their fears. A lot of students we get are afraid of heights but then they realize to trust their peers, they learn how to trust their equipment, and ultimately learn how to trust their instructors.”

If someone watched the training from the sidelines they might think that the school is a test of physical strength alone but Staff Sgt. Raymond Fields, 25th ID, Lightning Academy, Air Assault School Phase 3 chief, said that there is one factor that stands above the rest when it comes to Soldiers succeeding during the school.

“Attention to detail, that’s pretty much the main key and we stress it throughout the course from beginning to end,” Fields said. “You have to understand that one minute detail might cost you a mission, it might cost you a sling load, might cost you somebody’s life, specifically dealing with rappelling operations.”

One graduate, the sole Air Force student, said he walked away from the class with knowledge and skills that will help him perform his job more effectively.

“Air Assault School is intense,” said Master Sgt. David Galindo, 25th Air Support Operations Squadron tactical air control part (TACP) and operations and

A Soldier begins “the Tough One” obstacle as part of the 25th Infantry Division Lightning Academy’s Air Assault School June 13, 2016, at the East Training Range, Hawaii.  Soldiers tackle physical and mental challenges during the school including an obstacle course, a 12 mile march with full gear, written and hands on exams, pathfinder operations, sling load operations and rappelling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

A Soldier begins “the Tough One” obstacle.

training flight chief. “There are a lot of physical things that are demanded of you from the school and also there’s a lot of mental things that you have to remember as far as aircraft capabilities, sequence of sling loads, and ensuring your rappelling technique is sound. As an Airman who works directly with Soldiers, I’m in a position to help the Army at any time with close air support. A lot of times the Army looks to me for anything that has to do with aviation.”

The completion of each phase of the school placed each student closer to graduation day. Each obstacle, from learning aircraft specs to rappelling from a UH-60 Black Hawk, poses different challenges, but attention to detail was needed at each one.

“Professionally it really just improved your overall discipline,” said Staff Sgt. Donald Castelow, Scout Platoon reconnaissance team leader, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment and Air Assault School graduate. “Everything that you have to do on a day-to-day basis… the small things are the biggest things. Small things like having your I.D. card, dog tags, holding a canteen a certain way, a lot of attention to detail requires a lot of discipline and to see young Soldiers, seeing leaders and everyone come together and doing it, it’s a booster for everybody and I think you learn a lot.”

Soldiers who complete the Air Assault School bring an enhanced capability to the fight. According to Thy, these capabilities can cut mission times in half and provide insertion options for infantry and artillery during real world missions and said that, “if we can sling load our howitzer or drop our infantry guys in combat, it makes us way more combat effective.”

At the end of the three phases of Air Assault School, more than 100 Soldiers, one Airman, and one Marine left the Schofield Barracks Parade Field with the Air Assault Badge pinned to their chests, some with a new found sense of pride and accomplishment.

A Soldier low crawls through an obstacle during the 25th Infantry Division Lightning Academy’s Air Assault School June 13, 2016, at the East Training Range, Hawaii.  Soldiers tackle physical and mental challenges during the school including an obstacle course, a 12 mile march with full gear, written and hands on exams, pathfinder operations, sling load operations and rappelling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Low crawling through a barbed wire obstacle, June 13.

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