‘Air assault!’: 191 servicemembers earn their wingsPfc. Melissa C. Parrish,
Headquarters Public Affairs:
Shouts of “air assault!” rang out across the parade field and kicked off the Fort Bliss Air Assault graduation as the servicemembers earned their wings on Noel Parade Field March 18.
Nov. 5, 1946 marked the first recorded air assault mission and, 60 years later, Soldiers are still fighting to earn the badge.
Words of wisdom echoed through the loud speakers as Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport, Fort Bliss command sergeant major and the event’s guest speaker, addressed the graduating class.
“Never before in the history of our Army has it been more important for our Soldiers to be physically fit, mentally tough and ready for what’s right around the corner,” said Davenport. “It is because of dedicated Soldiers like you we find success wherever our boots hit the ground.”
The formation stood at attention as the audience joined Davenport in a cheer for the newly Air Assault- qualified servicemembers.
“Air Assault school was intense,” said Pfc. Dean Laramee, an infantryman with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, who made it through the grueling 10-and-a-half-day course. “It’s like I’m on top of my game.
“Sling load was the hardest part for me. It was tedious and many things can go wrong,” said Laramee. “I trained hard for this. I knew I had to be physically fit, and not just in one area, but all over.”
“Sling loading” is a process of connecting a cable from stationary military cargo on the ground to a hovering helicopter. The process is the Army’s most important means of transporting equipment across rugged terrain.
Laramee’s wife Nicole Laramee said she was very excited to see her husband make it to graduation.
“It’s been a daunting three weeks,” said Nicole. “I’ve had to give him his space, let him study, and I tried to have more patience knowing he hasn’t slept much.
“He wanted this so much and that was my way of helping out. I am so proud of my hero,” added Nicole.
The Navy, Air Force and the German Air Force were among those attending the Fort Bliss Air Assault School, in addition to the Soldiers.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Rennell Austria was the only Sailor who tried out and earned his Air Assault wings.
“This school was physically and mentally challenging,” said Austria, who serves as a fire control specialist. “I had to really push myself.
“Not many people in the Navy will ever get to experience anything like this,” Austria said. “I am so grateful I got the opportunity and earned my wings.”
The servicemembers had to go through a 10.5-day course that teaches air assault techniques and qualifies them to conduct air mobile and air assault helicopter operations. Training also included aircraft orientation, sling load operations, proper rappelling techniques and fast-rope techniques and procedures.
The final event was the dreaded 12-mile foot march. Soldiers were required to complete the foot march, with the prescribed uniform and equipment, in three hours or less to graduate.
After the foot march, servicemembers inventoried their bags according to the packing lists to ensure every item that was on the list was in their bags.
“After the layout, I felt so relieved,” said Laramee. “I knew all of my hard work paid off, and I had finally earned my Air Assault wings.”
Two hundred twenty-four servicemembers started the air assault journey, but only 191 made it to graduation day.
For those interested in attending Air Assault School locally, the next cycle here is scheduled for September.
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