Air Assault training at West Point

Story and photos by Michelle Eberhart Assistant Editor

June 15th, 2017 | News, News and Features
A couple of the 161 cadets and Soldiers who graduated from Air Assault Class 701-17 rappel from a BlackHawk during operations at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. From May 30-June 9, the 10-day intensive course was taught by instructors from The Sabalauski Air Assault School from the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
An instructor from the Sabalauski Air Assault School teaches cadets and Soldiers during AA training, June 2 at West Point.
One hundred and sixty-one cadets and Soldiers graduated from the first iteration of Air Assault training, June 9 at Trophy Point.

One hundred and sixty-one cadets and Soldiers graduated from Air Assault Class 701-17, June 9 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The 10-day intensive course was taught by instructors from the Sabalauski Air Assault School from the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

From May 30 through June 9, anybody at West Point could faintly hear “AIR ASSAULT!” throughout the installation. During the three phases of Air Assault training, participants learn how to conduct military transport operations for personnel and equipment via helicopters.

“These skills will serve you and your future units well,” Col. Jonathan Neumann, director of the Department of Military Instruction at West Point, said during the graduation ceremony. “Even if you never serve in an air assault unit, you are very likely to need again the skills you have learned over the past 10 days. Especially during the past 15 years of conflict, operating with and around helicopters has become a requirement for nearly every type of unit and formation in our Army.”

In addition, Neumann encouraged the graduates to keep up with the knowledge that they learned throughout the course.

“Seek opportunities to maintain these skills,” he started. “And you should never hesitate to offer assistance when your future units are required to conduct any mission that involves helicopters. You now have the ability and the confidence to make a difference.”

Neumann concluded by thanking the noncommissioned officers from the Sabalauski Air Assault School for training and certifying the class, doting their professionalism and expertise.

Class of 2020 Cadet Lee Cox proudly wore his Air Assault Badge following the graduation ceremony.

“There are a lot of Army operations that have to do with helicopters, sling load operations, moving equipment,” he explained. “We don’t really air assault much in combat, but we definitely move equipment a lot and as an officer, being able to inspect a load or notice a deficiency could possibly save a life or ensure the safety of your crew.”

Cox said the training taught him the importance of paying attention to detail.

“I learned a lot about understanding that detail matters, knowing where all my equipment is and executing each order to the ‘T,’ as well as studying hard and being excellent in what we do and the importance of understanding helicopters and their role in the Army,” he added.

Class of 2020 Cadet Sylvan Blankenship agreed.

“More than anything it’s a very detail-oriented course,” he said. “You have to make sure you have all your equipment, make sure it’s laid out right, it’s clean and suitable. And especially when it came to the rappelling, you had to make sure you were paying attention, not only to what you’re doing, but what everyone else is doing.”

And while rappelling out of helicopters is what got Blankenship interested in Air Assault training in the first place, he says he learned much more than that.

“All I’ve known so far is Beast and West Point,” the rising yearling said. “To have noncommissioned officers come from Fort Campbell, Kentucky and teach us, kind of give us a different perspective of what the Army is like and what other schools have to offer, it broadened my perspective that there are more opportunities out there, and that’s what I learned, more than anything.”

While the first group of Air Assault participants have completed their course, three more iterations of the course will occur throughout the summer, with the last completing their training on June 30.