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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2014  12:09:07 AM

Fort Hood Soldiers, Airmen earn their wings

Email   Print   Share By Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin, III Corps Public Affairs
July 5, 2012 | News
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Soldiers rappel out of a UH-60 Black Hawk Monday during the 10-day course that began June 28. Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin III Corps Public Affairs
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Air Force Staff Sgt. James Eberts, 3rd Air Support Operations Group, rappels from a UH-60 Black Hawk Monday. More than 130 Soldiers attended the 10-day air assault course, which began June 28. Aviation support was provided by 7th Battalion (General Support), 158th Aviation Regiment. Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin, III Corps Public Affairs
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Sgt. Dustin Balog stands in formation wearing his new Air Assault Badge during the graduation ceremony Tuesday. Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin, III Corps Public Affairs
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Soldiers rappel off the slant wall during the 10-day air assault course Saturday. Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin, III Corps Public Affairs
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Spc. Nathaniel James, 1st Cavalry Division, finds deficiencies during his sling load test June 29. Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin, III Corps Public Affairs
After 10 days of temperatures reaching as high as 103 degrees, 91 Soldiers and Airmen received their wings during a ceremony Tuesday from the Fort Hood Air Assault School.

Although air assault courses have been held in the past at Fort Hood, this marks the first time Soldiers from Fort Hood are teaching the course.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the corps to really instill the confidence in our Soldiers and Airmen,” Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, said. “We are known for our training capabilities, and this is a great opportunity for our Soldiers to stay and train here. Our NCOs (noncommissioned officers) made it happen.”

“In the past, we have used trainers from other posts that come here and instruct the course. This is the first course to be held with instructors from here,” Staff Sgt. Perrin Gori, a Fort Hood Air Assault School instructor, said.

Gori said the course is going to change how Fort Hood operates on a daily basis.

“This is the biggest thing on Fort Hood right now,” he said. “We’re taking a post that’s full of mechanized Soldiers and introducing them to light tactics and operations we use in environments more than before.”

“The air assault course is needed for when we deploy. It (Afghanistan) is an air-centric environment where we need to move equipment quicker, get supplies and sling load (equipment),” Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Hernandez, the Phase Two chief instructor at the course, said. Hernandez has had his wings for more than a decade. “This will help Soldiers down range and make the unit more combat ready,” he added.

The course opens Soldiers up to a new spectrum of skills utilizing aviation assets and pushes the Soldiers above the standard.

“Soldiers need these skills, and it teaches diversity,” Hernandez said. “It gives a more well-rounded Soldier. They are flexible after this course, and they are going to know things they didn’t know before. This is a benefit to the unit, III Corps and the Army. We are building better Soldiers in this course.”

The course not only increases readiness and builds a better Soldier, it doesn’t compare to any other training offered at Fort Hood.

“You can’t get this level of training in a computer program or simulation,” Gori said. “This is real-life training out here.”

The course is also critical for Soldiers and the Army.

Coming out of a decade of war, Campbell said, Soldiers need this type of training to create a renewed sense of confidence.

Confidence some students didn’t think they had.

“Once I got through Day Zero, I really felt on top of the world,” Pfc. Qausy Lopes, Battery B, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, said. “I really doubted myself before, but the last 10 days boosted my esteem and confidence as a Soldier, especially after the first day.”

Lopes, like many other Soldiers, is one of nearly 100 others who didn’t give up or quit after the first day.

“Day Zero, that’s where they usually quit. It weeds out the weak from the strong, and if they make it after Day Zero they most likely will make it the rest of the course,” Hernandez said, noting that about 30 students quit after the first day. “However, you don’t want a Soldier who is not physically fit to get through the first day and later fall out of a road march. It’s just a waste of a slot.”

In a course with a limited number of spaces, slots can’t be wasted on a Soldier who isn’t in shape for the rigorous course.

“Air assault shows the caliber of young men and women we have,” Command Sgt. Major Arthur L. Coleman Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood command sergeant major, said. “They are smart, physically fit and eager to learn. You have to be aggressive to tackle this type of training.”

While the course tests a Soldier physically, it also puts demands on them mentally, which causes others to fail the course.

“Mentally, the most difficult part is the sling load and we have the most failures and drop outs,” Hernandez said, adding that 16 Soldiers failed the sling load test. “It takes a lot of attention to detail because Soldiers have two minutes to find three out of four deficiencies when they’re already under a lot of pressure.”

It was that pressure that makes the course challenging for the troops.

“My mind was going a mile a minute thinking about everything I had learned the past few days,” Lopes said. “I had to depend on muscle memory and confidence to get through the sling load test. It was intense, but exciting.”

Regardless of the challenge, physically or mentally, by the end of the course everyone wanted to wear their wings.

“Our Soldiers love this course,” Campbell said. “They want to compete just to wear this prestigious badge because not every Soldier can finish this course. It requires a lot of heart and personal courage to earn their wings.”
 
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