by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks
I earned my air assault badge while attending Air Assault Course [AAC] at the Light Fighters School, Sep. 20, on Fort Drum, N.Y. It was the most physically and mentally demanding school I have ever experienced. To receive this badge I had to successfully complete the air assault, sling load and rappelling phases of training, and a 12-mile foot march. Even before I could begin training, I had to first pass day zero just to become a student. It’s certainly not for the weak-hearted.
Day zero began with a complete layout of every item on our packing list by the cadre, otherwise known as “sergeants air assault.” Soldiers were being sent back to their units for missing or unserviceable items and equipment. The Army preaches attention to detail because it could mean life or death. That philosophy would not be different at the AAC.
Then the class lined up at the nine-obstacle course starting point. I was worried most about the dreaded rope climb. I practiced my technique many times, so when I was face-to-face with the rope, there was no doubt that I was going to make it up.
The sergeants air assault pushed every Soldier to their mental and physical limits. They would remind us that they do not fail students, but it’s the students that fail themselves. The instructors gave outstanding blocks of instruction, and a day did not pass that I wasn’t learning something.
Sling load phase was extremely difficult for those who did not study. I committed everything to memory, such as the tensile strength of equipment used in sling load operations, lift capabilities of supporting aircraft, and rigging and inspection of prepared loads. Even though I was totally exhausted at the end of the day, I found myself anxious everyday to study, learn and challenge myself more. I hosted many study sessions for the Soldiers that wanted it, and it made me proud that everyone that studied with my group passed.
The last thing that separated me from earning the badge was the 12-mile foot march. I stood side-by-side with other Soldiers on the last day wearing a 30 pound rucksack, helmet and dummy M-16 rifle.
We moved to the starting point for the 12-mile road march. The cadre said we have exactly three hours. Stay on the right side of the road. Go!
The entire class took off running. I knew that if I pushed myself in the beginning, it would give me plenty of time at the end.
I completed the road march with time to spare and my hands and rifle raised high. I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride, but the realization that I was finally done didn’t hit me until the graduation ceremony. I feel more confident as Soldier and a leader because of this course. Air Assault!