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United States Army Air Assault School
(Sabalauski Air Assault School)
United States Army Air Assault Badge
Country United States
Branch U.S. Army
Garrison/HQ Fort Campbell, Kentucky, U.S.

The Sabalauski Air Assault School (TSAAS) is a FORSCOM TDA unit located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Its primary task is training leaders and soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT), other United States Army units and United States Armed Forces service members in several courses annually.


Air Assault School qualifies soldiers to conduct airmobile and air assault helicopter operations, to include aircraft orientation, slingload operations, proper rappelling techniques and fast-rope techniques. The school itself is 10 days of rigorous, fast paced training. The high standards of the school require the student to take part in a 12-mile march with rucksack in under three hours on the morning of graduation to be awarded their wings.

The original school is located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky (home of the 101st Airborne Division). There are also or have been schools at Fort Rucker, Alabama; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Hood, Texas; Camp Blanding, Florida; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Ord, California, Fort Richardson, Alaska and elsewhere. Instructors at the course are referred to as Air Assault Sergeants. It is open to both males and females. The school is composed of learning helicopter insertion techniques, pathfinder operations, sling load operations as well as rappelling from buildings, cliffs and helicopters. Each day begins with rigorous physical training that includes unit runs from two to five miles. Attention to detail and tedious packing lists, the contents of which you carry in a 35 pound ruck sack daily, are also the order of the day; one missing item from these lists or failing any task from any phase of the course, could cause the student to be dropped from the school immediately.

Courses offered at the Air Assault School include: Air Assault, Pathfinder, Pre-Ranger, Rappel Master and Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction (FRIES)/Special Purpose Insertion Extraction (SPIES) Master courses. TSAAS is also home to the Division's Parachute Demonstration Team.

The 101st Airborne Division, a parachute and glider-borne unit that conducted two jumps during World War II, was converted to an Airmobile unit in 1968 in Vietnam, becoming the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). The parenthetical designation changed to Air Assault in late 1974. According to popular myth, the Airborne tab over the unit's Screaming Eagle shoulder patch remained because two of the division's units, a parachute rigger detachment and a pathfinder company, were both still on jump status. There is, however, no basis for this under AR 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia. According to The Institute of Heraldry, the Airborne tab is “an intrinsic part of shoulder sleeve insignia,” not a detachable insignia added if a unit is on jump status, and according to its records the unit is still designated the 101st Airborne Division. There are numerous other non-parachute units with subordinate parachute units, such as long range surveillance troops (company equivalents) within battlefield surveillance brigades, but their presence does not entitle entire brigades to wear the Airborne tab. Regarding the division’s remaining parachute units, it now has one pathfinder company in each of its two aviation brigades, but the rigger unit was separated from the division many years ago. Until late 2013, parachute rigger support was provided by the locally-assigned 4th Platoon of the Fort Bragg-based 647th Quartermaster Company. In October 2013 jump status for the two pathfinder companies was terminated, leaving no parachute positions within the division, and the rigger platoon departed from the post.

Graduation from the Air Assault School is not required to be a Soldier in the 101st, but it is looked upon as an achievement of excellence by the chain of command.

In 1998, a new 34-foot (10 m) tower was completed and Phase Three began to train at this site. On 17 December 1999 the new Sabalauski Air Assault School facility was dedicated and for the first time in several years all phases of instruction are conducted at one facility. Over sixty classes are run annually, training over 8,000 soldiers per year.


Air Assault School is a 10 ½ day course that teaches air assault techniques and procedures, and qualifies soldiers to wear the Air Assault Badge. [1]


Soldiers are not considered “Air Assault Students” until after successful completion of Zero, the first day of the course, which requires students to complete an obstacle course and two-mile (3.2 km) run.


This inspection is extremely meticulous. It is conducted after the six mile foot-march on day one. Soldiers must have all items on the packing list each student is given. All clean and serviceable (in usable condition). If a soldier is missing any item during the inspection, that soldier will have points deducted. The inspection has a very specific lay-out that the soldier must adhere to. Every item must be placed exactly how the Air Assault Sergeants displayed on day zero, and all items must be laid out "as worn."

Obstacle course and two-mile run

The obstacle course is designed to assess a student’s upper body strength, agility, endurance, confidence, and ability to perform at heights without displaying fear or distress. This test is critical in determining if a student will be able to complete Air Assault School without becoming a safety risk to themselves, instructors, or other students during the tough and demanding training events conducted throughout the course. There are nine total obstacles. There are two obstacles that are considered mandatory, and failing one of the two will result in being dropped from the course. The other seven are minor obstacles, and the Air Assault prospect is allowed to fail one of the seven and still continue. This means that failing two of the minor obstacles will result in being dropped from the course.

Prior to the obstacle course, students will conduct a two-mile (3.2 km) run. Students must complete the run in under 18:00 to receive a "GO" in the event (meaning satisfactory completion of the event). The uniform for the run is Army Combat Uniform (ACU – minus the ACU Top depending on the season in which the training cycle begins) with running shoes.

Phase One – Combat Assault

Phase One, the Combat Assault Phase, is three days long. During this phase, soldiers receive instructions on the following tasks:

  • Aircraft Safety
  • Aircraft Orientation – includes the familiarization of the characteristics and capabilities of Army aircraft
  • Aero Medical Evacuation – includes the capabilities and request procedures for MEDEVAC aircraft
  • Pathfinder Operations – HLZ selection, marking and operation for day and night missions involving multiple aircraft, to include sling loads
  • Hand-and-arm signals – soldiers are taught 17 hand-and-arm signals used during sling load operations
  • Close Combat Attacks – use of attack in a close air support (CAS) role
  • Combat Assault Operations – includes various factors encompassed in an air assault operation such as: components of an air assault mission, the reverse planning sequence, duties and responsibilities of platoon-level personnel during an air assault, static load training, and a simulated combat assault on UH-60 aircraft

Soldiers are given two tests:

  • Written – The written test consists of 50 multiple-choice question. Soldiers must achieve 70 percent to receive a "GO" on the written test.
  • Hands-on – Students are tested on 10 of 16 hand-and-arm signals and must correctly perform seven of the 10 to receive a "GO". Soldiers must pass both tests to move on to the Sling Load Phase. They are allowed one retest per exam.

Phase Two – Slingload Operations

Phase Two, Slingload Operations, is three days long. During the Sling Load Phase, soldiers receive instruction on various aspects of sling load operations. This includes:

  • Planning and preparation for sling load operations
  • Capabilities, characteristics, and use of sling load equipment
  • Duties and responsibilities of sling load personnel
  • Familiarization with sling load theory and rigging of non-standard loads

Students receive hands-on training on preparation, rigging, and inspection of several certified or suitable external loads. These may include the following loads:

  • M1097 HMMWV
  • M1097 HMMWV, shotgun/side-by-side configuration
  • M119 105mm Howitzer
  • M149A2 Water Trailer
  • A-22 Cargo Bag
  • Fuel Blivets (one, two, three, or four blivit configuration)
  • 5000 lb or 10,000 lb Cargo Net

The soldiers will also conduct an actual hook-up of a load underneath a CH-47 or UH-60 aircraft. In this phase, soldiers are given two tests:

  • Written – The written test consists of 50 multiple-choice question. Soldiers must achieve 70 percent to receive a "GO" on the written test.
  • Hands-on – Students are tested on four of the six loads taught. Students must identify three out of four preparation and/or rigging deficiencies within two minutes per load to receive a "GO".
  • Soldiers must pass both tests to move on to the next phase. They are allowed one retest per exam.

Phase Three – Rappelling Phase

Phase Three, the Rappelling Phase is three days long. During this phase, soldiers receive instruction on basic ground and aircraft rappelling procedures, to include the following tasks:

  • Tying of the hip-rappel seat (Swiss seat)
  • Hook-up techniques
  • Lock-in procedures
  • Rappel with and without combat equipment
  • Belay procedures
  • Fast Rope familiarization

Soldiers will conduct two rappels on the wall side of the school's 34-foot (10 m) tower, 9 to 12 rappels from the open side, and two additional rappels from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter hovering at 70–90 feet. All rappels are conducted with and without combat equipment. During fast rope familiarization, students conduct a controlled descent and a static hold for five seconds. Students that successfully conduct both descents from a 12-foot (3.7 m) platform then descend from the 34-foot (10 m) tower using the stack-out/rapid exit technique. Fast rope descents are conducted without combat equipment. Soldiers are tested on:

  • Tie the Hip rappel (Swiss) seat (the 90 second time limit has been reinstated)
  • Hook-up to a rappel rope without deficiency (the 15 second time limit has been reinstated)
  • Conduct three rappels: lock-in rappel, rappel without combat equipment (also known as a "Hollywood" rappel) with three controlled brakes, and combat equipment rappel with three controlled brakes

Soldiers must pass all tests to move on to the next phase and are allowed one retest per exam. The reason the standards of this course are so strict, is because if the soldier does not grasp and then master the skills that are being taught, the chances of an accident increase greatly. The margin for error in this type of training is small.

12-Mile Ruck March

The final event is the 12-mile (19 km) ruck march. Soldiers must complete the 12-mile (19 km) ruck march with the prescribed uniform and equipment in three hours or less in order to graduate. The ruck march is a graded task and a graduation requirement for Air Assault School.


  • Graduates are awarded the Air Assault Badge and the 2B ASI (Additional Skill Identifier) unless they did not come out of the helicopter qualified to inspect rigged sling loads.
  • Graduates in the rank of Corporal (E-4) and above are qualified to perform as rappel lane NCOs for ground rappel training and are eligible to attend the Rappel Master Course.
  • Graduates in the rank of Sergeant First Class (E-7) or above are qualified to serve as a rappel site Safety Officer for ground and aircraft rappelling.


See also

External links

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