FORT HOOD, Texas (Feb. 17, 2012) -- The U.S. Army Air Assault Course is coming to Fort Hood. The 10-day course, which trains and tests Soldiers in air assault combat operations, sling load and rigging operations, and rappelling from a helicopter, will now have a permanent place at the installation.

In October, 250 Fort Hood Soldiers took part in an Air Assault Course with a mobile training team from Fort Benning, Ga.

Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Coleman Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood sergeant major, said plans have been in the works to bring an Air Assault Course to Fort Hood for some time.

"We've been working on this for the last 18 months," he said, noting that the process began with then-Lt. Gen. Bob Cone, the former III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, and continued with Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., the current commanding general.

"I am very thankful that we have a chain of command here that has a vision for training," Coleman said.

The training is rigorous, competitive and prestigious, he added.

"It will allow Soldiers to have a skill set, and that skill set will pay big dividends inside the unit because of the ability to do air assault operations and sling load operations; this Soldier will go back to his or her unit with the type of skills that will propel that unit in a way that it hasn't been propelled before," Coleman said.

The class will be held monthly at Fort Hood, with scheduled summer and winter breaks, according to Sgt. Maj. Edward Lewis, the III Corps and Fort Hood G3 sergeant major. He said each class will include anywhere from 50 to 100 Soldiers.

"Soldiers will be trained in Air Mobile Operations, which is an enduring core Soldier task," he said. "The training conducted at the course is nested in the Mission Essential Task List, or METL of several units."

Lewis added that discipline, attention to detail and superior standards are also integral parts of the course, and all those values will benefit the individual Soldiers in the training, as well as the units they return to.

Fort Hood will join Fort Benning, Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Hawaii as an installation with a permanent, accredited course. Although Lewis said he has heard that the Great Place was home to an Air Assault Course in the past.

"I have heard that it was offered 20 years ago," he said. "I've actually had people call me and tell me they went through Air Assault School here at Fort Hood back in the '80s, but I have no historical documentation to verify that."

The reaction to the news of the course has been positive among Fort Hood Soldiers. At the initial class in October, hundreds of Soldiers requested a spot in the school.

Lewis said he fields phone calls every day from Soldiers and units inquiring about the upcoming course dates.

"Numerous Soldiers ask about the course and the opening dates, daily," he said. "We're constantly fielding phone calls from Soldiers who are highly motivated to attend the training."

But Fort Hood Soldiers aren't the only individuals who will be able to use the facility.

"The training site itself is going to be offered to our local ROTC, colleges and universities in our area, our local law enforcement and will have an opportunity to co-train with our Soldiers and use it for their training apparatus as well," Coleman said. "This is an opportunity that will fit not only Fort Hood, but the surrounding Central Texas community."

The course will also provide top-notch training for Soldiers while keeping fiscal constraints in mind.

"In the resource-constrained environment, it's more cost effective for us to train and attain the skill sets required for air-centric operations and expeditionary forces by building the course here, as opposed to sending our Soldiers to other installations," Lewis said.

Although no official date for the first class has been published, Coleman and Lewis said they are hopeful the course will begin in June.

Both Coleman and Lewis cautioned that the course will only accept Soldiers who are in peak physical condition.

"It's a very physically and mentally challenging course that Soldiers are strongly encouraged to ensure a high degree of physical fitness before even asking to go to the school," Lewis said.

Coleman advised Soldiers to begin preparing now if they hope to take part in the inaugural course this summer.

"Make no mistake about it, it's coming," he said. "It's been approved. Start getting in shape now. June will be here pretty quick, and if your chain of command puts you on the roster, then I expect you to be physically fit."