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Feature Stories

NEWS | April 4, 2017

Day Zero: Journey to earn Air Assault wings

By Sgt. Tom Wade U.S. Army Central

Hundreds of Soldiers, Airmen and Marines came from miles away to fulfill a dream. Their journey is not easy, it requires a keen eye for detail and the ability to handle heavy equipment, while under duress. Thus, upon successful completion of day zero, candidates can then call themselves ‘Air Assault Students.’

Task Force Spartan, a U.S. lead task force with a mission to defeat "extremist enemies of peace and stability," created an Air Assault Course, which started, April 3, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The course’s purpose is to provide U.S. military personnel in the U.S. Army Central theater of operations the unique opportunity to become air assault qualified, while also being deployed outside the continental United States.

"By the time the participants graduate, they should have a thorough knowledge of air MEDIVAC procedures, combat assault, combat attack, as well as sling load operations," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy J. Nungester, senior noncommissioned officer for the Air Assault Course, Army National Guard Warrior Training Center. "The participants will also learn how to properly rappel off a 50 feet rappel tower, followed up by rappelling out of an aircraft."

Day zero started at 3:30 a.m. to which the participants, on short rest, did physical training for 30 minutes. This was then followed up with a two-mile run, in combat uniforms, where all 246 candidates passed within the 18-minute time limit. Participants then endured another physical training session, which lasted another 30 minutes, affording them little time to enjoy their meal-ready-to-eat breakfast. The last challenge of the day then loomed heavily in all of their minds, because the nine-event obstacle course was just minutes away.

"The obstacle course was rigorous and challenging, to include the exercises in between each event," said Spc. John E. Egizii, diver, 511th Engineer Dive Detachment. "To me, being air assault qualified adds to the variety of capabilities our dive detachment is capable of."

Many of the participants who passed day zero agreed with Egizii’s perception of the day. The majority acknowledged that day zero accomplishments and celebrations are for the bus ride back; because each new day presents different challenges they must pass, or risk being sent back to their units.

"This obstacle course tested the mental agility of the students, their physical capabilities, as well as their attention to detail," said Capt. Ronald Snyder, Company B commander, Army National Guard Warrior Training Center. "The air assault student becomes a subject matter expert to his company or unit commander and is able to assist with planning for air assault operations into whatever environment they may need."