WDRB reporters experience Air Assault School - WDRB 41 Louisville News

WDRB reporters experience Air Assault School

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Whether it's parachuting onto the beaches of Normandy, or deploying to Afghanistan, Kentucky's 101st Airborne Division has been called to serve time and time again.

WDRB's Lindsay Allen and Bennett Haeberle got a true test of mental and physical toughness in this special assignment at Fort Campbell's Air Assault School.

If only this were the end. If only we could tell you this was the final phase. That the pain, the extreme exercise, the grunting, the obstacle courses, the simulated attacks and exhaustion written on their faces would soon be erased. That the heavy breathing would end with some reward.

But this is Day Zero of Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, and there are 10 more days to follow. Day Zero starts with a two-mile run, followed by an obstacle course.

Each soldier is given two attempts to navigate it. If they fail, they're sent home.

Just as much as the school is about conquering physical challenges, it's also about discipline and attention to detail.

Those left standing move on to the next phase, learning how to build and inspect what's known as a sling load: essentially hooking up a humvee so that a helicopter can lift it over a mountain, say in Afghanistan.

Then comes the rappelling phase. That's when Lindsay and Bennett got a taste of what it's like to rappel off a 34-foot-tall training wall. Both were a little hesitant.

"It felt like we were going fast, when in reality, I think they could've painted the latrine in the time it took both us to get down," Bennett said.

It's a skill these soldiers need to master for their next phase of training: rappelling out of a Black Hawk helicopter.

But before these soldiers are able to complete the program, they have to finish out with Day 10. And that includes a 12-mile march wearing a 35 pound pack -- and don't forget the helmet, individual body armor and a training rifle. And it starts at 3:00 in the morning. And you have to finish within three hours.

"It's not any one day here that's hard," said Cpt. James Prisock of the 101st Airborne Division. "It's the fact that Day 10 comes after the nine previous days, and the Zero Day."

The school is challenging for a reason. America is still a nation at war.  A large portion of the 101st is currently in Afghanistan.

Even though the President has mentioned bringing home all U.S. troops by 2014, training here has actually ramped up. It's actually part of a changed Army doctrine, a belief that soldiers should be better trained. More soldiers are able to focus on training rather than just preparing for deployment after deployment.

And it's not just for young privates.

The acting commander of the 101st, Col. Michael Minor, just completed the program at the age of 49.

"It's pretty tough," he said. "It's a lot tougher that I anticipated."

Despite cuts announced by the Pentagon, the loss of the 4th Brigade will affect about 300 soldiers here. The Air Assault's top brass say they feel their training regime will be unphased.

"We are the only air assault division in the world, so it's important that we keep our soldiers trained -- that we get them qualified," Minor said.

If only this were the end...it would be easy.

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