Aug. 24, 2010

Warrior Training Center brings Air Assault to Central Virginia 

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The National Guard’s Fort Benning-based Warrior Training Center recently sent a nine-man team of instructors to teach the 12-day Army Air Assault course to more than 140 Soldiers and Airmen at the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center in Virginia Aug. 9-20. This is part of an ongoing program that sends mobile training teams to various training sites around the world to teach the course closer to the students’ home of record. The team has taught the Air Assault course from Alaska to Germany and plans to present the class in Hawaii next year.

 

The National Guard’s Fort Benning-based Warrior Training Center recently sent a nine man team of instructors to teach the 12-day Army Air Assault course to over 140 Soldiers and Airmen at the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center in Virginia from Aug. 9-20 as part of an ongoing program that sends mobile training teams to various training sites around the world to teach the course closer to the students home of record. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

More photos of the Air Assault course are available on the Virginia Guard Flickr page

The course started out slowly with the processing of potential participants passing in paperwork, and making sure their documents were in order and they were medically fit to participate in the training. But by the second day, or “zero day,” the tempo had been increased and the process of thinning the herd had begun, according to Sgt. 1st Class Brian G. McCarthy, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the course. Zero day began with a nine-event obstacle course which forced students up ropes, over 40-foot towers, under barbed wire and through a series of other grueling tasks, finishing with a two-mile run which had to be completed in under 18 minutes.

The obstacle course was successful in lowering the number of Air Assault candidates and by day nine the class size had been reduced to 70 potential badge holders. Those that made it successfully through zero day were officially added to the class roster and began learning the several phases that would carry them on to graduation: Air mobile operations, sling load operations and rappelling operations.

According to McCarthy, the students learn all about aircraft safety during the first phase. They are taught the layout of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, how many people make up a basic flight crew, how much weight a cargo hook can hold, and aero medical evacuation procedures. To move onto the second phase, the service members must pass a 50-question written exam and perform a hand and arm signal test.

“Phase one was pretty tough. We started pretty early with physical training at 0515, and we got pretty smoked by the phase one instructors,” said Staff Sgt. Gary Grooms, an Air Assault candidate from Company A, 53rd Signal Battalion at Fort Detrick, Md. “After that we would refit and get ready for classes, and receive whatever PowerPoint presentations they had for us . After that it was typically a lot of hands-on training.”

 

The National Guard’s Fort Benning-based Warrior Training Center recently sent a nine man team of instructors to teach the 12-day Army Air Assault course to over 140 Soldiers and Airmen at the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center in Virginia from Aug. 9-20 as part of an ongoing program that sends mobile training teams to various training sites around the world to teach the course closer to the students home of record. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

More photos of the Air Assault course are available on the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

Upon reaching the second phase of the course, the student focus shifted to the sling load operations of the aircraft where they were taught to properly secure items to be hooked to the aircraft for exterior transportation before progressing to the third and final phase of the course.

“They learn how to sling load six pieces of equipment common to the site we’re at,” said McCarthy. “So every site we visit could be a little bit different.”

After learning to properly secure a M119 howitzer and other items to a helicopter for transport ,the Soldiers and Airmen prepared for the third phase in which they learned to tie a hip rappel seat to lower themselves quickly to the ground from a hovering helicopter. This is commonly referred to as fast-roping. The students tested out of the final phase Aug. 19 by testing their rappel techniques on a rappel tower. They were timed to see if they could properly tie the rappel seat in less than 90 seconds and concluded the day with a jump out of a hovering Black Hawk.

With the final jump from the floating aircraft complete, the course still had one more final test to trip up the students: a 12-mile road march with a full packed load to be completed in 3 hours or less. The students had a packing list, a rucksack and set of instructions to not fall under a 15 minute per mile pace. They had to make sure they had everything on their list or else they were eliminated from the course.

“If they don’t keep a 15 minute mile pace, they’ll be put on a truck and they’ll be a no-go for the road march,” warned McCarthy. “If they’re missing a black pen upon completion, it doesn’t matter if they finish the march in two hours flat, they‘d be a no-go because of missing equipment.”
When the march was over, only 67 students remained to see graduation Aug. 20 and to pin on the coveted Air Assault Badge, a small depiction of a Huey helicopter wrapped in a pair of feathered wings.

“It’s been tough no doubt, but it’s been a lot of good training,” said Grooms. “It was a lot tougher than I thought and I probably learned a lot more than I was expecting to learn.”

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