By Jordan Chapman, 1st Infantry Division Public AffairsSeptember 23, 2009
FORT RILEY, Kan. - After a two-mile run, a six-mile road march, an obstacle course, hundreds of push-ups, orientation flights and classroom work, it's safe to say Soldiers taking the Air Assault Course are tired. But the fun isn't dying out anytime soon, and neither is their enthusiasm.
The Air Assault Course at Fort Riley has been in the planning phases for about a year. It was designed to allow Soldiers who have families and a home to return to their place of rest while participating in the training.
Soldiers were eager to begin, but not all of them will graduate.
"Air Assault school is the toughest 10 days in the Army," said Air Assault Instructor Cpl. Robert Summers of the Warrior Training Center out of Fort Benning, Ga.
Summers was one of about 15 instructors that traveled to Fort Riley to teach the course from Sept. 15 to 25 to more than 250 Soldiers initially. That number had dwindled to just more than 200 Soldiers three days later.
To begin, Soldiers met at Custer Hill Parade Field well before sunrise Sept. 15 with nothing but a sack of equipment. They were greeted by their instructors, who told each incoming student what was expected of them throughout the next 10 days.
Soldiers then had to run two miles in less than 18 minutes and complete an obstacle course to be officially accepted into the course.
Classroom work, a road march and orientation flights in a UH-60 Black Hawk followed throughout the week.
Summers explained that during each of the activities, he and other instructors are looking for motivation, attention to detail and the ability to follow orders, while each Soldier endured continuous physical and mental stress.
"We stress on these because they actually will help in a life situation," he said. "Anything you got to work hard for is worth getting."
"The Soldiers receive a sense of accomplishment," said Staff Sgt. Brian McCarthy, Air Assault instructor, adding that during his six years of teaching, he has witnessed the pride Soldiers have wearing the Air Assault patch.
"It's actually a skill you can use over in Iraq and Afghanistan," McCarthy explained. "It's stuff they can use. I enjoy it. I love what I do - traveling around and meeting different Soldiers. We're just trying to help them out."
In the final week of the course, the Soldiers will learn how to conduct sling loads, complete a 12-mile road march and rappel out of a Black Hawk.