Pfc. Brayden Cooper, 763rd Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), pulls himself up between the wooden planks that make up station three – called “The Weaver” – of Fort Leonard Wood’s Confidence Course July 1 at Training Area 97. Cooper is one of two EOD Soldiers from the 763rd here training for Army Air Assault School.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pfc. Brayden Cooper, 763rd Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), pulls himself up between the wooden planks that make up station three – called “The Weaver” – of Fort Leonard Wood’s Confidence Course July 1 at Training Area 97. Cooper is one of two EOD Soldiers from the 763rd here training for Army Air Assault School. (Photo Credit: Photo by Angi Betran, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sgt. Preston Kinnett, 763rd Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), swings across station 16 – called “The Swing, Stop, Jump” – of Fort Leonard Wood’s Confidence Course July 1 on Training Area 97. Kinnett is one of two EOD Soldiers from the 763rd here training for Army Air Assault School.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Preston Kinnett, 763rd Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), swings across station 16 – called “The Swing, Stop, Jump” – of Fort Leonard Wood’s Confidence Course July 1 on Training Area 97. Kinnett is one of two EOD Soldiers from the 763rd here training for Army Air Assault School. (Photo Credit: Photo by Angi Betran, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Friday before the Fourth of July holiday weekend on Fort Leonard Wood was fairly calm, as many service members and employees took the day off to spend extra time with family and friends.

For two Explosive Ordnance Disposal Soldiers from the 763rd Ordnance Company (EOD), however, the day was anything but calm. Sgt. Preston Kinnett and Pfc. Brayden Cooper have spent the past five months training for Air Assault School, and much of their time these days is consumed by the mental and physical preparations required to complete what is commonly called the toughest 10 days in the Army.

According to the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, website — the Sabalauski Air Assault School headquarters is located on Fort Campbell — the school trains Soldiers in air-assault operations, sling-load operations and rappelling. Upon graduation, each Soldier will be able to perform skills required to make maximum use of helicopter assets in training and in combat to support their unit.

The morning began with a 12-mile ruck march — which is one of the course graduation requirements — and training alongside Kinnett and Cooper was 1st Sgt. James Bohanon, their company first sergeant, who attended the school himself more than 10 years ago.

Bohanon said it’s important to encourage self-improvement and professional development in Soldiers.

“You learn, you interact with other Soldiers — a lot of times, EOD is kind of in our own little pocket doing our own thing, and the opportunity to get our Soldiers out into the larger Army, so they can network and learn things, and bring that knowledge back to the unit — that does nothing but improve our company,” he said.

After their ruck march, Kinnett and Cooper next worked out on the Confidence Course at Training Area 97, while other members of their unit cheered them on and acted as safety monitors at various points around the course.

Kinnett, originally from Sidney, Ohio, said it’s in his nature to attempt to graduate from a difficult Army school like this.

“With it being a school that some people call the 10 hardest days in the Army — I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that it does have a bit of a status with it and a connotation to the name that I really like,” he said. “I like pushing myself and becoming better — that’s why I joined EOD as a career field, because I heard about how long the schooling was and that it’s very difficult.”

For Winslow, Indiana-native Cooper, who came here straight from the 37-week EOD Advanced Individual Training, the reason he said he volunteered for one of the course slots is the knowledge he will gain from the experience.

“And in the future, if I become a sergeant or a higher rank, and someone else wants to go to Air Assault School, I can help them out,” he said.

Kinnett said he has spoken with a few AAS graduates to help put together a picture of what he and Cooper are about to go through — they start AAS on Friday.

“Realistically, what it comes down to — what I hear — is that it’s not going to be a fun time, but at the end of it, you’re going to feel very accomplished, so it’s better to push yourself through it,” he said.

Bohanon said whatever the outcome at AAS, the fact that these Soldiers volunteered to take on such a challenge speaks to their character.

“It’s something that is mentally and physically demanding that they are challenging themselves with,” he said. “Whether or not they get the badge — and I hope they do — at least they know they can do the things required to pass. We are a small unit, and anything like this that any of us do, the rest of us support.”

(Editor’s note: Angi Betran, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office, contributed to this article.)