The day I joined the “Bulldog” Battalion I had realized one thing; whatever my goals and aspirations were in life, with hard work, dedication, and high motivation I could achieve just about anything. This statement is something that I have done my best to live by every single day through my studies, ROTC, and every other aspect of my life. With a mentality such as that, I have been able to achieve several accomplishments which our program has made possible. Couple of which took place this summer.
Back in January of 2015 I found out about an Air Assault (AA) school tryout and I instantly knew I had to prepare myself mentally and physically in order to standout. During my tryout in late March, it became apparent that my preparation and dedication was on point when I was given the slot for the prestige school of Air Assault. I accredit the Cadre here and especially the senior Cadets who had set the standard in previous years and encouraged me to reach that same level of competitiveness. Not soon after, I was emailed about an opportunity to go to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY. Instantaneously, I knew I wanted to go, but had one concern; will I be able to attend both Air Assault and West Point? Amazingly the time did not conflict with each other so I was able to send my request to go to the USMA. My request was granted for the summer training alongside another fellow Cadet from the Bulldog Battalion. Consequently, my entire summer was just filled with school and a once in a lifetime summer training.
Going forth, I was able to go home for two weeks, then returned to Starkville, MS for my Physics course which concluded on June 25th, that same day I flew out to Newark, NJ where I was shuttled to West Point, NY. On the first Night at the Academy I was able to tour the school and experienced the magnificent beauty and history behind the school. Afterward, alongside other cadets, I was sent 7 miles away to Camp Buckner, home for west Point Students field training events. The following month was filled with what “West Pointers” call Cadet Field Training, which was composed of three weeks of training on all scales in preparation for the Capstone Field Training Exercise (FTX) at the end.
Throughout theses three weeks, we were introduced to many different branches and participated in learning objectives and hands on activities for each one. On the days we weren’t specifically engaged in branch orientation were ere competing for the RECONDO badge. This badge is awarded to those who perform to a certain standard in multiple events such as: Land Navigation, Basic Rifle Marksmanship, weapons disassembly and reassembly, Call for Fire and several physical events. The training experience and the friendships I made at West Point are something that will stick with me the rest of my career. I am blessed the have had this experience.
After returning home from New York I had five days before I drove to Fort Campbell, KY to The Sabalauski Air Assault School. Air Assault school was broken into three phases over 11 today days (day 0 to day 10), although this school is relatively short, we covered a great amount of material. Day zero included “warm up” workout before being sent through the confidence course which is designed to force students to overcome fears of height while pushing them to their mental and physical limits. Fortunately, I didn’t have any trouble during the course due to the preparation and guidance from Cadre and Cadets that were Air Assault qualified. Phase one started on day one and was labeled Combat Assault. During this phase we learned about the distinction and characteristics of different aircraft and learned about the objectives and missions of Air Assault to include a brief introduction into pathfinder Operations. At the end of this phase we took a written test and a physical hand and arm signal test.
Phase two Sling Load Operations started immediately after the phase one test. This phase was mainly hands on and was a lot of fun from my perspective. They teach us all step and procedures needed to have a successful load ready to be picked up by an aircraft. Attention to detail is very crucial during this phase. At the end of this phase we took a written test then had t assess four different loads and find four deficiencies in less than two minutes.
Phase three the Rappelling phase, was the most hands on and interactive. We were trained on the rappel tower to perform three types of rappels. The different types were the Hollywood, lock-in and the combat rappels. Each of which required perfect form to prevent unsafe actions from occurring. At the end of phase three we were tested on each of the rappels and then given the opportunity to learn how to fast rope. Our final rappel was done from a UH-60 Blackhawk from an elevation of approximately 90 feet. This was my second favorite experience at the school, only second to receiving my Air Assault wings.
My overall summer experience is something that I would never give up and I am excited to see what other opportunities our great “Bulldog” Battalion and the United States Army has to offer.
-Cadet Brendan Jones