Air Assault is said to be the hardest 10 days in the Army. But when you graduate you come out with a sense of pride that you never had before. Air Assault is 11 days long with three different phases which teaches you everything you need to know to conduct air assault operations. The three phases are Air Assault Operations and aircraft orienteering. The second phase is sling load operations, and the third and final phase is the repelling phase.
Before you start out in phase one, you have to go through zero day. This is one of the hardest days in the course. It tests your physical and mental toughness. On this day you first have to complete an obstacle course. The standards to pass are to complete two mandatory obstacles and all but one of the other obstacles. After the course you have to conduct a two mile run in 18 minutes or less. And in between the Air Assault Sergeants keep you busy with pushups and flutter kicks, front-back-goes, and plenty more exercises to make sure you are tough enough to complete the rest of the course.
Phase one is Air Assault Operations and aircraft orienteering. This phase consists of three days of class room study. The first thing you learn is aircraft safety. You learn how to set up landing zones for sling load operations. You learn speeds, weapons crew members and much more about all the popular aircrafts used in today’s Army, such as Blackhawks, Apaches, and Chinooks. Along with basic orientation of helicopters, you learn medivac operations, such as how many casualties each type of helicopter can carry, and learned how to properly call in a nine line medivac. You learn different hand and arm signals to guide in a helicopter to hook up a sling load or to land on a landing zone. On the third day you take two tests. One is a 50 question written exam and then a hands on test to make sure you know the hand and arm signals. On the second morning of training you must conduct a six mile road march, with a 40 pound rucksack and weapon, in one and a half hours or less.
Phase two begins on day three after your testing is over. It starts out with some class room exercises but most of the second phase is outside doing hands on training with the sling loads. The classroom studies consist of learning different weights of the different sling loads and how much weight that different binders and sling sets can carry.
The sling loads that you are tested on are the HMMWV, cargo net, A-22 cargo bag, M-149 water buffalo, and a fuel blivet. For three days you go over how to rig the sling loads and how to properly hook them up to a helicopter. The tests consist of another 50 question written exam and then a hands on test where you inspect 4 different sling loads and have to find 3 out of the 5 deficiencies on each in two minutes.
The third and final phase is the repelling phase. This is where all the hard work from the first two phases pays off. You start out learning how to tie a hip repel seat in 90 seconds or less. Then you spend three days learning how to repel with no gear, with your weapon and LBE, and finally in full combat gear, which consists of you LBE, weapon, and rucksack. The test consists of tying you repel seat in 90 seconds or less then to properly repel three times with the different gear on. After the testing is over with you get to repel out of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. You’re not done yet though. The next morning you must conduct a 12 mile road march in three hours or less again with your 40 pound rucksack and weapon.
Though it is physically demanding and very mentally stressful, after it’s all over you get to wear the Air Assault badge proudly on your chest and have a sense of accomplishment knowing you got though some of the hardest training the Army has to offer.