On July 1, most people were focused on their Fourth of July plans, but not select cadets from West Point, the Reserve Officer Training Corps and Soldiers from Task Force Leader. They watched with excitement as UH-60 Black Hawks came into view near South Dock.
According to Maj. Matthew McClary, the Air Assault summer training officer-in-charge, 14 instructors from the Sabalauski Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, along with eight Air Assault qualified cadets, helped facilitate five separate Air Assault classes at West Point. Each class holds up to 250 cadets and Soldiers. Approximately two-thirds of the total cadets come from the U.S. Military Academy.
Class of 2023 Cadet Andrew Ficenec is one of those eight cadets. He remembers his time in Air Assault last summer by saying, “You’re doing a lot of very fun and applicable things like rappelling and going out of the aircraft.”
Students are tested on numerous physical activities, such as an obstacle course, timed runs and a 12-mile ruck march. Attention to detail is paramount. Missing even the smallest item on the packing list is grounds for dismissal.
Those who make it through the “10 toughest days in the Army,” according to instructors and graduates, graduate ready to move equipment via sling load beneath helicopters for movement on the battlefield, or rappel onto the ground from a hovering helicopter.
Class of 2023 Cadet Anna Loureiro said rappelling was her favorite part of the school.
“It helped me get over my fear of heights,ˮ Loureiro said. “It’s really great to take the training from the tower and then rappel from the Black Hawks.”
For many cadets, such as University of Alabama’s Justin Lentz, it was the bonds formed over family-style meals at West Point and meeting other cadets from around the nation that made this school special to him.
The sentiment was echoed by Christian Lopez, from the University of Puerto Rico, and Class of 2023 Cadet Jay Lopez Garcia. They both agreed that meeting new people and gaining valuable skills helped make the 10 toughest days worth the challenge.