GREENVIEW, IL (11/17/2011)(readMedia)-- Hovering 90 feet in the air. Dangling from a Blackhawk helicopter and rappelling to land with a rope as the wind whistles through your hair. This is an experience many who put on a U.S. Army uniform dream of, but few experience. Until recently, most of those opportunities were reserved for active duty Army personnel. Through a new program, Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers are getting a unique opportunity to attend Air Assault School.
The program allows distinguished honor graduates from initial entry training (IET) to attend Air Assault School.
"Soldiers must graduate from IET as a distinguished honor graduate or honor graduate with a physical fitness test score of 280 or above," said Sgt.1st Class Angela Cooper of Hartsburg, Acting Training Seat Quota Manager. "Soldiers meeting the criteria must submit applications within 90 days after graduating from IET."
Since October 2010, nine Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers qualified for the program, but only one Soldier has graduated from Air Assault School.
On January 14, 2011 Spc Jeremy Doggett of Greenview, a member of the Illinois Army National Guard's Troop A, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment, in Pontiac graduated from Air Assault School at Fort Benning, Ga. Doggett excelled during IET, becoming a distinguished honor graduate and receiving the Draper Leadership Award, which is designed for upcoming leaders in armor and cavalry units. His extraordinary accomplishment led to the creation of the new program allowing Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers the option to attend Air Assault School.
"Soldiers have to meet high standards to go to air assault training," said Master Sgt. Marshall
Peterson of Tallula, with the training division at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. "Prerequisites include a commander's recommendation and successful completion of a 12-mile road march with 35 pounds of equipment in three hours. We want smart, strong Soldiers with the strength and mental toughness to rappel out of a helicopter and complete the training."
Air Assault School is a 10-day course with a "Zero Day" that consists of a physical fitness test and an obstacle course. The obstacle course is designed to assess a student's upper body strength, agility, endurance, confidence and ability to perform at heights without displaying fear or distress. This test is critical in determining if a Soldier will be able to complete Air Assault School without becoming a safety risk during the demanding training events conducted during the course.
"The obstacle course consists of nine separate obstacles that you must overcome," said Doggett. "Two of the obstacles must be completed receiving a first time 'go.' You cannot receive more than one 'no go' on each of the remaining seven obstacles or you will fail."
Air Assault School is typically recognized as more challenging than Airborne School due to the additional academic portions of the course coupled with the physical challenges. Safety is paramount during all training and failure to meet the rigorous standards results in an immediate discharge from the course."
Air Assault School has three distinct phases, with each phase having a written test. Soldiers learn up to 17 hand and arm signals used during sling-load operations. There is a three-day phase focused on planning and preparation for sling-load operations, capabilities, characteristics and use of sling loading equipment. Soldiers eventually learn to rappel from a hovering helicopter.
"Between the first and second day we did a six-mile ruck march and it was nasty out and that's when my uniform including boots were soaked, said Spc Doggett. "During the ruck my socks were drenched and fell down creating friction....and both of my boots were saturated in blood. The bad part was I knew I had another ruck to complete, but no pain, no gain."
Many Soldiers are cut throughout the course for various infractions in standards. One example is air assault Soldiers are required to shout "air assault" every time their left foot hits the ground and Soldiers never walk during training.
The final day starts at 1 a.m. when Soldiers wake up and conduct a 12-mile ruck march within three hours.
"It was January and there was a rain snow mix, so conditions were not ideal," said Doggett. "I think the Air Assault School is a great course that improves attention to detail and leadership skill. The training sets you apart from your peers. It really toughened me up and made me the person I am today. Upon graduation I was coined by State Command Sgt. Maj. John Starbody. "
Doggett said having this course under his belt helped him move forward to his next path in the military. Since graduation, he has been attached to the Illinois National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Command in Springfield traveling throughout the state as a member of the mobile event team and was recently selected to attend flight school at Fort Rucker this coming year.
More Soldiers are slotted to attend Air Assault School and further funding is available for fiscal year 2012. Details of the new program can be found in Illinois Army National Guard Operations and Training Message 11-006.
Photo 1: Photo courtesy of Spc. Jeremy Doggett/ Through a new program, Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers are getting a unique opportunity to attend Air Assault School. "Between the first and second day we did a six-mile ruck march and it was nasty out and that's when my uniform including boots were soaked, said Spc. Jeremy Doggett of Greenview. "During the ruck my socks were drenched and fell down creating friction....and both of my boots were saturated in blood. The bad part was I knew I had another ruck to complete, but no pain, no gain."
Photo 2: Army photo by Sgt. Jason A. Bushong/ A servicemember rappels from the tower with a combat load during Day 8 of Air Assault School on Camp Smith, N.Y., July 28.
Photo 3: Photo courtesy of 55th Combat Camera/ Air Assault students rappel from a UH-60 Blackhawk as part of their graduation from Phase 3 at Camp Smith, N.Y., on July 29.
For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
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