CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - "Air assault!" shouted air assault students during the first half of a cool February at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. "Air assault!"
191 Service Members serving in U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility earned the right to wear the Air Assault Badge on Feb. 15, 2019. Air Assault's Class 301-19 began with 240 students on day zero of the 10 day school. Service Members pre-qualified to attend the first air assault course offered in Kuwait since 2017.
"You're setting a Soldier up to be successful in a combat environment," said Staff Sgt. William Ramos, an air assault instructor with the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, Fort Benning, Georgia.
Service Members were offered an opportunity to attend the rigorous school to develop additional skills, including moving equipment and rappelling, while deployed in a combat environment.
"Sling loading has been the hardest part," said Pfc. Clarence Allen, a patriot launching station enhanced operator, 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment. "I can now confront issues with my unit while I'm deployed, especially with sling loading in a forward operating environment."
Students also developed skills in cooperation and leadership through the school.
"You encounter so many people," said Cpl. Adam Johnson, a patriot fire control enhanced operator assigned 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense Artillery Briagde. "You have to work together in cohesion."
Several students were assigned to leadership positions at the school.
Sergeant Eric Irizarry, a machinist welder assigned to the 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, Connecticut Army National Guard, was assigned the student first sergeant at the school. He was responsible for ensuring students were on time and prepared for the day's training.
"It's been awhile since I've done anything like basic training," said Irizarry. "So the yelling, the screaming, physical training, waking up very early; it's all been challenging."
Irizarry said the most difficult part of the school was doing the right thing all the time.
"I don't want to get cut, let go or sent home," said Irizarry.
Leadership skills gained at the school are advantageous down the road according to Ramos.
"In the future, if they go into leadership positions, they'll know how to react better," said Ramos.
In addition to leadership skills, the school is also beneficial for career development.
"This course will help me become a better leader," said Allen, the youngest student in the class. "Someday I want to be sergeant major. I look up to Soldiers who've done Air Assault."
Service Members learned about the rare opportunity of attending the school down range. Requesting a spot at the school was more competitive than many thought.
Allen said when he was a fuzz ball, also known as an E-1, he asked leadership if he could attend the school. They told him they'd reserve a spot if he could do 72 push-ups within two minutes. Allen achieved that goal and was given a spot at the school. When the school began, he said he found it mentally challenging.
"I would say I came here physically prepared, but mentally it was a lot harder than I thought," said Allen. "Mentally you have to tell yourself not to quit."
Even though the school was challenging, many students found enjoyment in it.
"The training has been very rigorous but super fun and a great time," said Spc. Nathan Maxey, an infantryman assigned to the Alabama Army National Guard. "We learned about sling loads, rappelling, jumping from an aircraft and cargo loads. I really loved it."
Instructors travelled to Kuwait from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center out of Fort Benning, Georgia, and were key to developing service members.
"The instructors communicate very well," said Irizarry. "They understand this is our first time and they answer every question."
"They could definitely see things how we saw them," said Maxey. "They were hands on with you."
"They really motivated us," said Allen. "On the ruck march, they kept telling us don't fall out, don't fall out."
Ramos said if a service member is interested in Air Assault School they should take advantage of it. Soldiers have the opportunity to learn useful skills including rigging equipment, overcoming fear of heights, jumping out of a helicopter, rappelling from a tower and developing camaraderie.
"Some of the best things you're going to learn probably come from air assault," said Ramos. "It tests you physically, mentally and you're going to push yourself."