Sgt. Isaias I. Ahumada, 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, rappels off a high tower during a 10-day training course for the Air Assault School in October at Fort Hood. The program was certified this month and will begin classes in June.

By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — With 18 months in the making, Fort Hood’s Air Assault School gained official certification this week.

The school, which graduated 164 soldiers during a trial run in October, will become a permanent offering starting in June, III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Coleman said Friday.

“This gives us the qualifications to go full-steam ahead,” he said, estimating that the first monthly, 10-day course would be offered in June.

Fort Hood joins four other Army installations — Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Campbell, Ky., Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and Fort Drum, N.Y. — in having one, according to information from III Corps. Coleman and other III Corps leaders worked for about a year to put on the October school, transforming the empty field at the top of T.J. Mills Boulevard into a training ground — including a 3,500-foot-long obstacle course, 20-foot rope climb and five-story rappel tower — for future air assaulters. The course also included classroom time, a sling-load challenge, a 12-mile ruck march and 80-foot rappels from a hovering Black Hawk helicopter.

Participants in the October course, including Capt. Anthony Allen, 41st Fires Brigade, called it challenging and enjoyable.

“Was it fun? Oh yeah,” said Allen, his face flushed immediately following his fall from a Black Hawk. He attributed the positive experience in part to preparation, adding that Air Assault School was even more mentally demanding than his time at Army Airborne School.

Although an instruction team from Fort Benning assisted with the trial school, its permanent staff will be organic to Fort Hood. All have received appropriate certification. Coleman said they were hand-picked by a III Corps committee, with many selected from Fort Hood.

In addition to making its soldiers more “lethal” in combat and knowledgeable within their units, Coleman said Fort Hood’s newest offering would make the post much more valuable to the Defense Department in an era of military downsizing.

“It makes a statement that Fort Hood is not only a platform post (for deployments),” he said, “but also a post for training, that we believe in training soldiers. It gives us the opportunity to show that we are very agile, as well.”

Between 800 and 1,000 soldiers applied for the 10-day, grueling course in October and about 200 were selected to attend, said Coleman.

Once the school begins, about 200 soldiers will be selected to attend between nine and 12 courses each year, with slots designated for each Fort Hood unit based on size.

Company commanders and first sergeants will be responsible for approving soldiers for attendance, Coleman said, paying attention to fitness and other readiness levels.

The Fort Hood Air Assault School will be open to Fort Hood soldiers, as well as those from other installations, Coleman said, and other military groups, including ROTC and recruiters.