FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A Fort Jackson dental technician graduated with honors Jan. 17 from the Air Assault School at Fort Benning, Ga.

For Sgt. Jesse Madrid, a dental technician and noncommissioned officer in charge at Caldwell Dental Clinic, finishing the two-week course has been a goal since first enlisting in the Army.

"In my job, we don't do hands-on stuff with helicopters, so I raised my hand when the opportunity came up to send Soldiers to the Air Assault School at Fort Benning," he said. "I thought it would be interesting. When I enlisted, that was the main thing I wanted to do -- be a Soldier first. I picked the dental field because I still wanted to be able to use my experience on the outside, whenever I get out as a civilian."

It's unusual to see dental technicians with air assault badges, he said, because their duties are not often called upon for combat situations.

"It was hard for me because there was a lot of hands-on stuff," he said. "I'm pretty good with written tasks and written exams, but hands-on was a little more difficult for me."

The most challenging part of the course was the cold weather, he said. After that, he ranked "sling-load operations" as the second toughest part of the experience.

"It was our hands-on test for inspecting and rigging sling-loads for the helicopters," he said.

During this phase of the course, students receive hands-on training on preparation, rigging and inspection of external loads on a helicopter.

"DENTAC's pride with Sgt. Jesse Madrid's accomplishment knows no bounds," said DENTAC Commander Col. Jamie Houston. "He was not only the DENTAC Soldier of the year, but runner-up for the Regional DENCOM Soldier of the Year last year. The award is huge in the annals of the Army Dental Corps -- so rare that we have to check the history books to see when it was last achieved."