By Staff Sgt. Michael J. Taylor, 21st TSC Public AffairsOctober 2, 2012
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- The 21st Theater Sustainment Command, for the third-consecutive year, hosted a 10-day Air Assault School that was attended by approximately 260 Soldiers and Airmen from various units throughout Germany Sept. 10 on Camp Robertson in Schweinfurt, Germany.
By hosting the course, the 21st TSC paved the way for European assigned service members the opportunity to become air assault qualified without extensive traveling back to the United States.
Air Assault School qualifies soldiers to conduct air mobile and air assault helicopter operations, to include aircraft orientation, sling-load operations, proper rappelling techniques and fast-rope techniques. Separated into three phases, the training is rigorous and fast-paced. However students meet their first challenge with an obstacle course before the classroom phase begins.
This year's class lost 39 students after the obstacle course.
"The obstacle course challenged me since I don't like heights, and there are a few obstacles that are very tall," said Pfc. William X. Ogara, a plumber with the 15th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade, and a Vancouver, Wash., native.
All the training was conducted by air assault-qualified Soldier instructors from the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, Fort Benning, Ga.
During the first phase, the combat assault phase, the service members were introduced to the Army's rotary wing aircraft, pathfinder hand and arm signals, helicopter landing zones and markings, and aero-medical evacuation operations.
The second phase was sling-load operations, in which service members were taught about standard sling-load equipment, sling-load ground crew operations, and how to properly prepare, rig and inspect various pieces of military equipment.
The third and final phase of air assault training was the rappelling phase where students were instructed how to tie the conventional hip rappel seat in less than 90 seconds, and how to properly hook themselves up to a set of rappel ropes in 15 seconds or less. They also conducted numerous rappels from a 55-foot tower and performed rappels from a UH60 Blackhawk from the altitude of 80 feet.
After enduring through the three phases, the service members still weren't safe from failing the course. On their final day prior to graduation, they had to complete a 20-kilometer ruck march in three hours, while carrying 45 pounds of gear.
"We lose most of our students in phase two during the sling load test," said Staff Sgt. Ammon S. Blair, an air assault operations noncommissioned officer, and a Sandy, Utah, native. "But we have the most success in phase three during repelling operations, and I believe that is because it is the most fun part of the training."
Of the 260 service members who began with Air Assault Class 308-12, 193 graduated.
"It takes a lot from host units to prepare for our course, because there is a lot of equipment that we need in order to conduct the course properly," said Blair.
"Air Assault is very vital in today's current theaters of operations, especially in Afghanistan, where a lot of places you have to utilize helicopter assets," Blair stated. "So it is always good when units like the 21st TSC decide to host the course in places where Soldiers would not normally have to opportunity to attend it."