By Spc. Brian J. Smith Dutton (FORSCOM)August 22, 2013
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., - At first glance, the Sabalauski Air Assault School at Fort Campbell looks abandoned with no visual signs of life in all directions, but out of the thick, ghostly morning fog comes the loud, thunderous cries of "Air Assault" from more than 200 Air Assault candidates quake both the ground and sky.
Looking on is Company level and above leadership from 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); they are paying close attention to the "day zero" standards of the Air Assault School.
Rakkasan leadership gathered for a Leader Personal Development session on Aug. 19 at the Air Assault School in order to gain a better understanding of the standards for the rigorous course.
"Leaders must have an understanding of the standards in order to effectively coach, teach, mentor, inspect, and supervise their subordinates," said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Barteky, the senior noncommissioned officer for 3rd BCT. "Today's LPD will increase the understanding of current Air Assault School standards and procedures."
Events that occur on day zero include the obstacle course and equipment inspection.
Capt. Jamie Neely, commander of the Sabalauski Air Assault School, states these two events, "account for 62% of the school's overall attrition rate."
With the opportunity to witness firsthand what goes on during the school's "day zero," Rakkasan leaders can better prepare their Soldiers.
"It was beneficial to see the minor changes of day zero," said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Dennis Gholson, the senior noncommissioned officer for Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT. "We can now pass that on to our Soldiers so they can succeed at the hardest part of Air Assault School, getting to day 1."
Rakkasans have a rich history and pride in airborne operations as the only unit to have conducted airborne operations in every major conflict since their inception.
Air assault operations are a critical part of that history.
"This is the only Air Assault Division in the world," said Barteky. "Air Assault qualification is part of our identity."
Gholson agrees, "The school is part of our heritage and tradition. We are in the Air Assault Division. Our Soldiers and leaders should be Air Assault qualified. We stress this by making the Soldiers feel proud of what they have accomplished."
Earning the air assault badge is not just about pride, but also preparation.
"Lives may very well depend on our ability to establish a landing zone in support of a medical evacuation," said Barteky. "Rigging and inspecting sling loads is another vital skill taught and tested here that enables us to quickly move ammunition, water, and other supplies rapidly to the point of need on the battlefield."
Because the Air Assault School is on Fort Campbell, it is easier for leadership inside the Rakkasans and other brigades within the 101st to move their troops through the school to get them air assault qualified.
The Division's standard is a minimum of 70% of all Soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell Air Assault qualified in order to strengthen the capabilities of the 101st.
In order to meet Division standard, Gholson states his Company, "will continue to flood the school with walk-ons and primaries that have met all of the prerequisites. I think we have been on track so far by picking Soldiers that are motivated, as well as physically and mentally prepared."
Now with their leadership more knowledgeable on the Air Assault School procedures, the planning and preparation begins as the Rakkasans set aim at the Division standard.