Many Soldiers seek Air Assault School as a simple way to get a skill badge for gloating rights. It’s only two weeks of sliding down ropes — how hard could it be? Kinda difficult, actually, if you’re not prepared.
Being a dope-on-a-rope is the fun part, but cocky and unprepared soldiers will often get dropped before they reach that point. To get the opportunity to really learn what rotor wash is, you’re going to have to do a lot of work. There’s a lot more to the school than you might think. Here’s what you need to know if you want to make it through.
I honestly don’t know if that guy was planted there by the instructors, but we all got the message. There’s no messing around at this school.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
If you’re at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, for the love of all that is holy, don’t sh*t-talk the 101st Airborne
If you’re stationed at Fort Campbell, home of the Sabalauski Air Assault School, you’re more than likely going to be voluntold to attend. The 101st is pretty fond of their Air Assault status and almost everyone at the school is rocking their Old Abe.
If you’re not in the 101st and are attending on TDY, it’s ill-advised to sport an 82nd patch or Airborne wings. You might get pestered if you do, but won’t get kicked out or anything. All of that goes out the window, however, if you mouth off about the divisional rivalry.
Just how easy is it to get kicked? Here’s a fun, true story: A guy standing next to me on Day Zero couldn’t hold his tongue. He told the instructor, who kept his composure throughout, that “if you choking chickens can do this, so can I.” The instructor just opened the fool’s canteen, poured some water out, shook it near his ear, and told the idiot that he was a no-go before he could set foot on the obstacle course.
Get as much time on obstacle courses as you can before attending
The Day-Zero obstacle course isn’t that physically demanding. Every obstacle is designed so that everyone from the biggest gym rat to the smallest dude can pass. It’s more of a thought exercise than a physical exam.
The challenge that gets the most people is the rope climb. You can climb a rope with almost no effort if you carefully use your feet to create temporary anchors as you work your way up. Check out the video below for a visual example.
The “Air Assault” that will forever play in your head will remind you why your knees are blown out at 25.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Hecht)
Get used to saying “Air Assault” at least 7000 times a day
“When that left foot hits the ground, all I want to hear is that Air Assault sound.” This literally means you’ll be saying, “Air Assault” every single time your left foot hits the ground while you’re at the school. It’s not very pleasant considering it’s a three-syllable phrase and you’ll be uttering it every other second.
The answer to every question is “Air Assault.” Every movement is “Air Assault.” You’ll probably start mumbling the phrase after a while, but don’t let the instructors catch you doing it.
Also, don’t sleep in class. That’s a shortcut to getting kicked.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
There’s actually a lot of math
After you’re done with the obstacle course, the first phase is all about the helicopters. You’ll be expected to memorize every specification of every single helicopter in the Army’s roster.
And, yes, you’ll need to brush up on your basic math skills to plot out how far apart each helicopter should be given their size and area of landing. But don’t worry, you’ll get to the fun stuff soon enough.
Another heads up: That yellow stick thing is super important. You don’t want to learn the hard way why you have to poke the helicopter with it.
(Photo by Pfc. Alexes Anderson)
Expect to do more sling-load operations than fast roping
Oh, you thought Air Assault was all about jumping out of helicopters and quickly touching on what it takes to be a Pathfinder? That’s hilarious. You’re now going to be qualified for a detail that will almost always come up when you’re deployed: sling-loading gear to the bottom of helicopters.
The math skills and carrying capacities you crammed into your brain will ensure that you’re the go-to guy whenever a sling-load mission comes up. It’s only after that test that you move onto the repelling phase. This is when things gets fun.
Do units still do blood wings? Probably not. It’s not that bad, really.
(Photo by Sgt. Mickey Miller)
Make sure your 12-mile ruck march is up to speed
If you’re in a combat arms unit, making a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours isn’t asking much. That’s just one mile every fifteen minutes if you pace yourself properly. The ruck is the absolute last thing you’ll be doing at Air Assault School, just moments before graduation. And yet, people still fail.
If your unit came to cheer you on and give you your blood wings and you can’t complete the elementary ruck march at the end, you’ll never live down the fact that you failed while everyone was finding parking.