Kosovo Security Force members become first to graduate U.S. Air Assault course at Camp Dodge
1 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pvt. Sead Berisha, a psychological operations soldier with the Kosovo Security Force, receives his newly-earned Air Assault badge from Lt. Col. Berat Shala, executive officer to the KSF commander, on graduation day of a U.S. Air Assault course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Sept. 9, 2022. Over 200 students participated in the 12-day course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. The Iowa National Guard is partnered with the KSF as part of the DOD State Partnership Program, which offers unique opportunities for joint training and cooperation. Sead and one other KSF soldier became the first KSF members to graduate from a U.S. Air Assault course. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kosovo Security Force members become first to graduate U.S. Air Assault course at Camp Dodge
2 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Hjelmstad, command senior enlisted leader of the Iowa National Guard, congratulates Staff Sgt. Lorik Ramaj, a Kosovo Security Force member assigned to a civilian affairs company, on his graduation from a U.S. Air Assault course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Sept. 9, 2022. Over 200 students participated in the 12-day course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. The Iowa National Guard is partnered with the KSF as part of the DOD State Partnership Program, which offers unique opportunities for joint training and cooperation. Ramaj and one other KSF soldier became the first KSF members to graduate from a U.S. Air Assault course. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL
Camp Dodge hosts Air Assault course
3 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Lorik Ramaj, a civilian affairs soldier with the Kosovo Security Force, waits in queue to negotiate the Weaver obstacle on the Confidence Course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Aug. 30, 2022. Ramaj was one of two KSF soldiers to participate in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling-load operations and rappelling as well as being a test of grit. The National Guard’s State Partnership Program joins Kosovo and Iowa in military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals and cooperation objectives that foster cultural exchange. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) VIEW ORIGINAL
Camp Dodge hosts Air Assault course
4 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Soldiers conduct rappel operations from a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of the Air Assault course Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Sept. 8, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling-load operations and rappelling as well as being a test of grit. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) VIEW ORIGINAL
Camp Dodge hosts Air Assault course
5 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Soldiers and Airmen conduct rappel operations from a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of the Air Assault course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Sept. 8, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling-load operations and rappelling as well as being a test of grit. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kosovo Security Force members take on rappel tower during Air Assault Course at Camp Dodge
6 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Lorik Ramaj, a Kosovo Security Force member assigned to a civilian affairs company, prepares to rappel down a 60-foot tower during an Air Assault course hosted at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Sept. 6, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. The students practiced rappelling and belaying on the tower. The Iowa National Guard is partnered with the KSF as part of the DOD State Partnership Program, which offers unique opportunities for joint training and cooperation. Ramaj and one other KSF member became the first KSF personnel to graduate from a U.S. Air Assault Course. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kosovo Security Force members take on rappel tower during Air Assault Course at Camp Dodge
7 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Lorik Ramaj, a Kosovo Security Force member assigned to a civilian affairs company, rappels down a 60-foot tower alongside U.S. Soldiers during an Air Assault course hosted at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Sept. 6, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. The students practiced rappelling and belaying on the tower. The Iowa National Guard is partnered with the KSF as part of the DOD State Partnership Program, which offers unique opportunities for joint training and cooperation. Ramaj and one other KSF member became the first KSF personnel to graduate from a U.S. Air Assault Course. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL
Camp Dodge hosts Air Assault course
8 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Soldiers and Airmen await the Air Assault cadre’s command to begin negotiating the Tough One obstacle on the Confidence Course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Aug. 30, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling-load operations and rappelling as well as being a test of grit. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Samantha Hircock) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers, Airmen conquer day zero of Air Assault Course at Camp Dodge
9 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Matthew Gonzales, a Davenport, Iowa, native and combat medic specialist assigned to Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Iowa Army National Guard, performs squats between navigating obstacles on zero day of an Air Assault course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Aug. 30, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers, Airmen conquer day zero of Air Assault Course at Camp Dodge
10 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – An Iowa Army National Guard Soldier crawls under the low wire obstacle on zero day of an Air Assault course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Aug. 30, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers, Airmen conquer day zero of Air Assault Course at Camp Dodge
11 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Dylan Helmick, a Coshocton, Ohio, native an army technical engineer specialist assigned to Company K, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Ohio Army National Guard, navigates an obstacle on zero day of an Air Assault course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Aug. 30, 2022. Over 200 Soldiers and Airmen participated in a 12-day U.S. Army Air Assault course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL
Kosovo Security Force members become first to graduate U.S. Air Assault course at Camp Dodge
12 / 12 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pvt. Sead Berisha, a psychological operations soldier with the Kosovo Security Force, smiles as he receives his newly-earned Air Assault badge from Lt. Col. Berat Shala, executive officer to the KSF commander, on graduation day of a U.S. Air Assault course at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa, on Sept. 9, 2022. Over 200 students participated in the 12-day course held at Camp Dodge, which trains service members in sling load operations and rappelling. The Iowa National Guard is partnered with the KSF as part of the DOD State Partnership Program, which offers unique opportunities for joint training and cooperation. Sead and one other KSF soldier became the first KSF members to graduate from a U.S. Air Assault course. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tawny Kruse) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOHNSTON, Iowa-- Two Kosovo Security Force members made history by becoming the first KSF soldiers to graduate from a U.S. Air Assault course Sept. 9, 2022, at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa.

Maj. Gen. Ben Corell, the Adjutant General of Iowa National Guard, along with representatives from the Des Moines Consulate of the Republic of Kosovo and senior KSF leadership, were present to congratulate Pvt. Sead Berisha, a psychological operations soldier, and Staff Sgt. Lorik Ramaj, a civilian affairs soldier, on earning their U.S. Air Assault badges. Sead and Ramaj stood at attention alongside U.S. Soldiers and Airmen as their mentors and loved ones pinned them with their “wings” on graduation day.

On the first day of the course, Berisha described feeling strange being in a different uniform from the U.S. service members surrounding him, but said that his fellow students were approachable and encouraging.

“It’s my first time in the U.S. and in Iowa, and I feel really special to be here,” said Berisha.

Berisha and Ramaj represent their countrymen in their admirable achievement but also the flourishing National Guard State Partnership Program that joins Kosovo and Iowa in military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals and cooperation objectives that also foster cultural exchange.

Over 290 service members converged at the post to earn the coveted Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge or title of Rappel Master throughout August and September.

It was the first time in four years that Mobile Training Teams based out of the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, Georgia, traveled to Camp Dodge to teach the courses. The cadre led the Soldiers and Airmen through grueling tasks that were both physically and mentally challenging.

The U.S. Army Air Assault course trains service members across all branches in sling load operations and rappelling, as well as being a true test of grit. It includes phases that test not only their technical aptitude, but their ability to negotiate a tough obstacle course between repetitions of various exercises and — for those who pass all other tests — finishes with a timed 12-mile ruck march.

As for the Pathfinder course, a 2020 Army Times article stated the course would get the axe as projected at the time, but Sgt. 1st Class Josh Ludecke said that's not the case. Ludecke is the primary Pathfinder instructor assigned to Company B, ARNG WTC.

“We're still here for the Army National Guard, and our training center has absorbed executive agency of the Pathfinder school,” said Ludecke. “We're doing things that we can to fit [the course] more toward the force we need.”

1st Lt. Tanner Potter is an Iowa National Guard Soldier currently serving on active duty orders as the executive officer of Company B, ARNG WTC. He explained the difference between the Army’s Pathfinder and Air Assault courses.

“Pathfinders are able to be off on their own establishing drop zones and can go in ahead of a unit,” said Potter. “It’s just extremely in-depth, almost like college-level classes. Air assault is much easier for younger Soldiers to understand, strictly focusing on tower rigging and rappelling, that sort of thing.”

Each course has overall objectives and knowledge that culminates with each skill level. Air Assault is meant to lay the foundation for Pathfinder as well as the Rappel Master course, which is currently being held at Camp Dodge.

Sgt. Briton Ensminger, a cavalry scout with Troop A, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, IANG, said the Pathfinder course involved “very, very rigorous studying.” Yet, the long hours of mental strain paid off when he earned his badge on graduation day alongside his twin brother, Sgt. Bergen Ensminger, and was pinned by the primary Air Assault instructor. The Ensminger brothers are from Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

“The non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Air Assault is an old squad leader of mine [from] when I deployed,” said Ensminger. “He got to pin on my torch for me, so that was pretty cool.”

The Rappel Master course at Camp Dodge, which also offers a valuable and specialized set of skills focusing on aircraft rigging and rappelling, is set to graduate approximately 27 service members Sept. 15. This will close out a significant joint training event that gives service members a chance to both stand out and stand together with others who’ve earned these skills and badges.