The best, of the best, of the best! Four Soldiers representing the 95th Training Division lived up to the name ‘Iron Men of Metz.’ In early May, Staff Sgt. Pieper of Echo 2-377th, Staff Sgt. Blake of Delta 2-415th, Sgt. Gutierrez, and Sgt. 1st Class Ross of HHC 2-354th graduated from Air Assault School.
At Air Assault School, Soldiers are trained on the missions performed by rotary wing (helicopter) aircraft, aircraft safety, aero-medical evacuation procedures, pathfinder operations, principles and techniques of combat assaults, rappelling techniques, and sling-load operations. The bulk instruction covers the minimum support assets and is adaptable to organic aviation elements army-wide. Both the main instruction and the additional instruction are conducted in a high-tempo and physically demanding classroom/field environment.
On the infamous ‘Zero Day’ up to 30 percent of attendees fail out of the course to be sent home or recycled. They hit the ground running with numerous ‘smoke sessions,’ followed by the well-known Air Assault Obstacle Course consisting of The Tough One, Inclining Wall, Low-Belly Over, Confidence Climb, Six Vaults, Swing Stop Jump, Low Crawl, High Step Over, and Weaver.
After Zero-Day, they entered into Air Assault School. The school is broken into three distinct phases: Phase 1 – Combat Assault, Phase 2 – Sling load Operations, and Phase 3 – Rappelling and culminating in a 12-mile ruck march. After everything only around 50 percent of the class makes it through to graduation.
Pieper was assigned as 2nd Platoon’s Platoon Sergeant on Zero Day and held the extra responsibility throughout the remainder of the course. He was noted by cadre for ensuring his platoon met all hit times and also for keeping his Soldiers informed about what was going on in the next day’s training. Despite daily losing varying numbers of Soldiers, Pieper maintained accurate accountability, an impressive feat.
Blake was 1st Platoon’s Platoon Sergeant for his entire time in the course as well. He also had to take charge of the bays after hours and was handing out extra items that he brought with him to Soldiers who were missing items. Whenever the student leadership was dealing with cadre’s instructions, Blake took over student-first sergeant responsibilities whenever the student first sergeant was not around.
As a senior noncommissioned officer, Ross was selected for extra responsibility from the beginning, and held the position of first sergeant for the entire course. Ross was noted for leadership beyond his assigned role. Ross was instrumental to his team and helped many of those in his platoon prepare for future training and fight through copious amounts of the mental/physical stress to carry on through to graduation. Down to the last ruck march, a three-hour, 12-mile march with equipment layout at the end, Ross inspired and rallied those around him to carry on through to the end.
Gutierrez passed the course with no issue, which is in itself a distinction. He presented impeccable military bearing regardless of the situation. Gutierrez was not placed into a leadership role, but embodied the highest standards of physical and mental resilience ‘leading the way’ throughout the course.
Air Assault School is regarded as one of the military’s premier schools. Fast-paced and both physically and mentally demanding, the training is commonly known as the 11 toughest days in the U.S. Army. These select four representing the 95th Training Division found themselves equal to the task and can now proudly wear the 95th Division Patch and their Air Assault Badges.