FORT Campbell, Ky., - While 202 new graduates stood at attention to receive the coveted, Air Assault Badge at The Sabalauski Air Assault School, one officer's achievement made the November 21 ceremony a historic occasion.
Captain Jason Burnes, an assistant operations officer at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasan", 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), finished ahead of his peers and every other student that wore a pack on their shoulders to complete the intense 12-mile foot march.
With a time of one hour and 37 minutes, Burnes beat the previous unofficial record by a full minute. The record stood for nearly two years, set by then Pfc.Joshua Evans of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Burnes gives all of the credit to his fellow Air Assault students and instructors.
"It was easy to stay motivated with 201 other Soldiers pushing me along," Burnes said.
Staff Sergeant James Lee White, the senior instructor for team three, recognized Burnes' potential during an earlier six-mile foot march event.
"He took the road marches extremely seriously. You could see it in his eyes, a burning desire. It was a little more than just achieving a badge," White said.
Burnes attributes his success on the foot march to his marathon training. He is a member of the Fort Campbell 10-miler team and runs often on his own.
"Running a lot on your own free time gets you in better cardiovascular shape," Burnes said.
While Burnes' achievement made the day exceptionally momentous, he shared the moment with fellow Rakkasan, Pvt. Robert C. Wall, a rifleman from Company A, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Wall was recognized as the class' honor graduate, a significant achievement in itself, especially for a junior Soldier.
"I feel great. I'm proud to be a Rakkasan and I'm glad I was able to represent my company and my brigade," Wall said.
Private Wall didn't know much about his teammate, Capt. Burnes, until the morning of the foot march.
"I couldn't believe how fast he was," Wall said. "During the road march when I was just coming around mile seven, he was coming through with the guidon."
The 12-mile foot march is the culminating event in the rigorous Air Assault School that trains participants in Air Assault operations, sling-load operations, and rappelling. The 10-day course provides students with hands on and classroom exercises to provide them with the skills to use helicopter assets in training and in actual combat situations.