Toughest Air Assault Soldier on Fort Campbell
August 16, 2012
FORT CAMPBELL, KY - The moon still hovers in a predawn sky, visibility is low but the distinct sound of Soldiers adjusting their kits, boots and gear can still be strongly heard. They step off into the dark, the first of many in the next 12- miles, which has to be to be finished in under three hours time. This is the Toughest Air Assault Soldier Competition. Soldiers from each brigade are tested on their physical stamina, attention to detail and knowledge of tactical aerial operations. By day's end, one team will be the Toughest Air Assault Soldiers in Fort Campbell.
"The road march was the hardest part of the competition", said 2nd Lt. Sam Wilkins with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), after winning the competition held Aug. 15, at the Fort Campbell's Sabalauski Air Assault School. "It was a lot of gamesmanship."
A few hours later, the sky became fully lit, they began the competition's Obstacle Course, which included a 30-ft confidence climb, which resembles a giant freestanding ladder; the "Tough One", a 30-foot climb up involving ropes, balance beams and cargo nets; the "Belly Over", a free jump over a log using no hands; and "The Weaver", a series of wooden beams a competitor must climb over and under and not fall through. All obstacles are designed to exhaust and eliminate much of the competition after the Ruck March.
"I was like there is no way I'm going to make this, but I was going to get over this obstacle somehow," said Pvt. 1st Class Julio Bennett, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Following the obstacle course, the remaining competition began bounding down the side of the Air Assault school towers, completing the rappelling phase of the competition.
"The most important thing about repelling is your break hand," said Bennett. "The value of repelling would be for troop insertions into a hostile environment where you don't want the birds landing."
Whether by fast roping from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter or sling loading tactical equipment from base to base, the 101st relies heavily on air mobility. The sling load and written portion of the competition demonstrates a Soldier's overall knowledge of sling load working operations.
"The thing about sling loading is making sure it's rigged up correctly and inspect it three times before the bird comes and picks it up," said Bennett. "It's a method of transporting food, water and equipment downrange."
With the writing portion and a mystery event, the mystery event being a run with a weighted litter and a calling in a medical evacuation, the team of 1st Lt. Jackson Wittkamper of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment and Wilkins, finished first above the rest for the Toughest Air Assault Soldier Competition 2012.
"Our hard work paid off," said Wittkamper, after accepting a first place trophy and a gold medal. "The Army Olympics are over!," exhaled Bennett.