Air assault school reflects on past, future traditions
March 11, 2013
As the groans and moans transition to sweat, pain and exhaustion, these students find that they are now part of a short but brief tradition -- a tradition that wasn't here very long ago.
Fort Hood is the third and latest Army installation to add an air assault school. The Fort Hood Air Assault School is a 10-day course that consists of three phases and a 12-mile foot march that must be completed before graduation.
The school consists of several physical and mental challenges, including aircraft safety, aero-medical evacuation, pathfinder operations, hand-arm signals, close-combat operations and sling-load operations.
Members of the FHAAS took time out to reflect on their accomplishments, the
tradition of adding the school to Fort Hood and what the future holds.
Before the school could become a part of the Great Place, the air assault command team and cadre had to start from the ground up.
"We went through the entire process starting with a crawl, walk and run phase," said 1st Sgt. James Williams, Fort Hood Assault School first sergeant. "First, we had a mobile training team come in and train us. Secondly, we selected our cadre and trained them to standard. Next, we shadowed the MTT while they taught a class at Fort Bliss, Texas."
The final piece of the puzzle was not in place until the MTT could see if the Fort Hood cadre could train students to standard.
"Once it was time for us to go through the validation process, we trained over 200 students, which resulted in our full accreditation," Williams said.
Soldiers who attend the FHAAS not only get a chance to become part of tradition of Fort Hood, but they're saving the Army money.
"It costs a unit significantly less to send their Soldiers to our air assault school rather than Fort Campbell or Fort Benning," said Capt. James Reilly, Commander of the Fort Hood Air Assault School. "To send a Soldier from Fort Hood to another installation's air assault school costs more than $3,000."
With military budget cuts and fiscal cliffs looming, the FHAAS is doing its part to save the Army every penny it can.
"We analyzed two different scenarios and saw that if we brought in a MTT to teach the course at $50,000, that wouldn't be cost effective because we would only get 200 students qualified. Additionally, we would be at the mercy of the MTT's busy schedule," Williams said. "If we sent 132 students a month to another installation to get trained, the amount of dollars the Army would spend would be astronomical."
When most students graduate from the FHAAS, the first thing some may think about is partying because of what they have accomplished -- but not all are so easily motivated to leave.
Sgt. Amber Sellers is the first female instructor at the FHAAS.
"It's not everyday being a Soldier you have the chance to become first at something," Sellers said. "Doing this job is something new and different."
Sellars, originally a small-arms repairer with the 4th Sustainment Brigade, received the opportunity to try out for the school when she first heard about it coming to Fort Hood.
"I heard rumors that Fort Hood was in the process of getting a air assault school," Sellers said. "I went to my chain of command and asked them could I go to the school. After competing with Soldiers from my unit, I won one of the 12 slots to attend the school."
After beating out the competition, Sellers achieved her goal of graduating, but an opportunity of a lifetime was waiting for her.
"I was offered a job to come to the school and become and instructor," Sellers said. "I was so excited for a chance to do something challenging and exciting."
Sellers is excited about the FHAAS and hopes her career path inspires all female Soldiers to go out and exceed the standard.
"I hope that I can be a good role model, not only for Soldiers but also motivation for female Soldiers to come to the school," Sellers said. "I love my job, but, more importantly, I love what the school is bringing to the Fort Hood community."
As Fort Hood continues to grow, the air assault school and cadre have changed the mentality and perception on the Army community.
"The climate around Fort Hood has changed since the arrival of the air assault school," Williams said. "You see more Soldiers ruck marching and doing air-assault PT. Most Fort Hood Soldiers want to be apart of the air-assault movement."
It's a movement that benefits not only the individual Soldier, but also contributes to the fight around the world.
"The battlefield commander can save Soldiers' lives by using aero-resupply, aero-insertion and air-assault tactics to move his troops equipment across the battlefield," Williams said. "The enemy doesn't have the ability to move as fast as the rotary wing, so air-assault missions are key to overall victory of a mission."
With the possibilities for more training and further Soldier development, the FHAAS looks to expand its borders on base.
"The future of the FHAAS is to continue and keep moving forward in the right direction," Williams said. "We want to expand the capabilities not just of the air assault school, but incorporate other military schools that aren't badge-producing, but are skills-producing schools.
"We want to build and establish a training academy and a life-fighter school where we can teach the next generations of Soldiers in areas of emphasis like troop leading procedures, eight-step training modules and leadership," he added.
Regardless of what the future holds, the FHAAS plans to uphold the standards.
"The standard is the standard; it's not a standard unless it's enforced," Williams said. "We will always enforce the standards; we're becoming an institution of excellence."