CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - After 12 days of little rest and multiple exams, military personnel in the U.S. Army Central area of operations made it to graduation day. For these students, it means they have earned the right to an identifier and badge of an 'Air Assault Soldier.'
U.S. Servicemembers attended USARCENT's first Air Assault Course from April 3 to 14, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Task Force Spartan was in charge of creating Kuwait's first Air Assault Course. Where, the course gave 269 U.S. Servicemembers the unique opportunity to become air assault qualified, while deployed outside the continental United States.
The Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, from Fort Benning, Ga., provided the instructors, who were given the task of training, guiding and mentoring the applicants.
"Today's graduation was a culminating event of what some called the 10 toughest days in the Army," said U.S. Army Col. Roger Davis, chief of training, United States Army Central. "This was the first ever air assault school conducted in the Army Central area of operations ... which went extremely smooth due to all the different units coming together."
This Air Assault Course was conducted in three phases; combat assault operations, sling load operations and rappelling. During day zero, candidates had to complete a two-mile run and a nine-event obstacle course.
"The obstacle course was very difficult because it challenges you to be ready for the heights you are about to encounter" said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Katlyn Lehmann, human resource officer, 258th Human Resource Company. "As a support branch officer, I want to make sure I have all the tools needed to lead soldiers, the best way possible."
Those who make the day zero cuts moved onward to phase one, which consisted of a six-mile road march, written exams, and a hand and arm signal test.
"Each phase was challenging in its own way," said U.S. Army Capt. James Lamoureux, military police officer, 368th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. "Phase one was more physical compared to future phases, which required a lot of memorization and required one to finish strong."
Hundreds of Soldiers, Airmen and Marines made it to phase two, where they had to complete a four-mile run, sling load inspections test and another written exam.
"Phase two was the more difficult phase, as far as memorizing all the material needed for sling loads and the practical hands on exercises," said U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Dawson, infantryman, Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "The challenges were further complicated when the Humvee and different cargo bags were introduced."
The students who made it through phase two's challenges moved onward to phase three, which consists of a swiss seat test, a rappel test and a three-hour 12-mile road march.
"Students, during phase three, are tested on items like the 15 second hook up test, where they have to properly hook-up ... and get into the ready position within that allotted time," said U.S. Army Sgt. Cruser Barnes, cavalry scout and Air Assault instructor, attached to Army National Guard Warrior Training Center. "Those students are also tested on how to properly tie a hip rappel seat, which has to be completed within 90 seconds. If they fail either of those the first time, they get retrained ... and then retested."
Barnes also stated Soldiers who fail events in phase two or three can reapply for the air assault course and begin right away in the failed phase; as long as it is within six months. If the perspective candidate misses that time frame, they will have to restart the entire course, passing each phase.
The course concluded with a 12-mile ruck march, where students had to carry a payload of 35 pounds and finish within three hours.
Col. Roger Davis said the ruck march is an important event to have at the end of the course work, because "it is a good gut check proving the toughness of the air assault Soldier."
Nevertheless, the dust settled from the ruck march and 213 students remained to graduate USARCENT's first Air Assault School.
"Physical fitness should be second nature, to someone considering attending a course like air assault," said U.S. Army Sgt. Carl Howard, combat medic, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "Come determined and motivated to work within a team ... for that will be the key to your success here."