FORT HOOD, Texas -- For 10 days, Soldiers and Airmen put their minds and bodies to the task of completing the first course of the Fort Hood Air Assault School. At the end, 91 trained air assault service members emerged, but one stood above the rest.

Capt. Bryan Peterson, officer-in-charge of the 479th Field Artillery Brigade's north Fort Hood Operations section, earned the title of distinguished honor graduate of the Fort Hood Air Assault School's inaugural class.

"I had no idea until I was called up at the final formation that I was the distinguished honor graduate," Peterson said. "It was a nice surprise and a kind of cherry to bring back to First Army Division West."

Peterson said he heard Air Assault was a tough school.

"I didn't do a lot of training up to the start," he said, "but they asked me if I could do it, and if you ask me something like that, my answer's probably going to be 'Yes.'"

From "Day Zero" to the final day of training, Peterson was put to the test mentally and physically. Day Zero -- the first day of the course that includes running an obstacle course -- is thought by many Air Assault Soldiers to be the most difficult training day of them all.

"Day Zero was a 'smoker' and a lot more intense then I was expecting," Peterson said. "Smoking us in between obstacles with all those exercises was tough, but it achieved what it is supposed to, which was the weeding out of those who didn't physically prepare and weren't mentally ready to push through the pain."

After the first intensely physically demanding day, the Air Assault students continued through the course learning about rappelling and air assault and sling loading operations.

"The sling loads had me very, very scared, but, fortunately, I received a first-time go on that task," Peterson said. "That was the only part of the mental portion that I had an issue with; after that, everything else challenging was the running and the ruck marches."

The course culminated at Cameron Field near Division West headquarters with a graduation ceremony recognizing the Soldiers and Airmen for their accomplishment.

"I've gotten a great response from everyone, including my commander and first sergeant," Peterson said. "They've all congratulated me for completing the course."

Peterson received a plaque and a certificate of achievement signed by Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, commemorating his success in the course.

"If I could pass on anything to a potential air assault candidate, it would be during sling loads to remember your sequence of checking deficiencies and take your time," Peterson said. "Also, physical conditioning and preparing your body for early mornings and repeatedly pushing yourself hard every day."

Two other Division West Soldiers -- Staff Sgt. Ramon Deleon, 120th Infantry Brigade, and Staff Sgt. Tony Foster, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment -- also earned their wings in the first course of the Fort Hood Air Assault School.

Page last updated Fri July 13th, 2012 at 16:14