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Air Assault School Returns to Fort Benning

Published: Feb. 15, 2006 at 11:00 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2006 at 10:52 PM EST
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National Guard soldiers are now being trained in air assault, once only available to active duty soldiers. And they're getting the training at Fort Benning. Air assault has not been taught on post in 25 years. Air assault school is where soldiers learn how to quickly transfer equipment and supplies as well as enter a danger zone using helicopters.

The schools first class is making it's way through the program. One of their first field training exercises is called sling load training. It teaches soldiers how to hook up equipment, food, even vehicles to a helicopter. "This enables us to fly it there instead of driving and exposing soldiers to the dangers of IED's," says 1st Lt. Edwin Rodriquez who has been deployed in Iraq before and understands the value of air mobile operations.

It's been a key component to winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it's training most Army National Guard soldiers haven't been able to get until now. "Historically guard soldiers don't receive the same amount of time and training and attention of active duty forces," says Col. Lee Durham. The war in Iraq; however, is making it more imperative they do. "This summer the guard had more combat troops in Iraq than active duty," adds Durham.

Later this week the soldiers will practice repelling out of the helicopters, for quick air to ground attacks. Air assault school is tough. In order to pass the entire course, the soldiers will have to run twelve miles with 35 pounds of gear on their backs.

Although the Army National Guard Air Assault school is based at Fort Benning, classes are around the world.

By Kari Tornabene
ktornabene@wtvm.com