Each summer, qualified cadets are selected to participate in specialized army training opportunities that accelerate their skills and enhance their ROTC experience. This summer, Cadet Cole Bonham was selected to attend the US Army Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, KY.

Air Assault School qualifies soldiers to conduct airmobile and air assault helicopter operations, including aircraft orientation, sling load operations, proper rappelling techniques, and fast-rope techniques. On the morning of graduation, students must complete a 19 km (12-mile) march with a rucksack in under three hours before receiving their wings. UC Irvine U.S. Army ROTC sent one cadet, Cole Bonham, to Air Assault School in Fort Campbell, KY during Summer 2021. Below is a takeaway from Cadet Cole Bonham on his experience at the Sabalauski Air Assault School: 

“Air Assault School was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time learning so much about rotary-wing aircraft; my first time experiencing what I often call the ‘Real Army;’ even my first time being that far away from home. 

There is always more to learn no matter where you are in your career. I’d been doing ROTC for the past few years and thought I learned a fair amount of skills taught in the Army but Air Assault made me realize that’s just a drop in the bucket. I learned I can achieve anything with the will to achieve it and a proper plan. 

There were a lot of new experiences when it came to preparing for Air Assault: My first 12 mile ruck in under 3 hours, my first time climbing a rope, my first time trying my own safety harness that I would eventually jump out of a helicopter with. But I did all of it and it taught me I could do that for anything if I want it enough. I hadn’t realized how much I’d achieved until the pinning and graduation ceremony. The speaker summarizing it all, and then being reminded of it by my badge stills fills me with pride every time I see it. 

The information I absorbed opened my eyes to both the delicate intricacies and the powerful capabilities of air assault operations. During my time at air assault, I have developed an enormous appreciation for the Sabalauski Air Assault School, its content, and the value it instills. It was a challenge, constantly being tested on my knowledge, physical ability, and attention to detail, but I am grateful for the lessons they taught me. The other side of it was getting to talk to actual active soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers. I learned about their jobs, their daily life on base, and their experiences. I learned multiple different career paths possible for me that I never knew were even possible. 

Air Assault was more than worth it for me and I believe these experiences will be a part of the reason that I will be a better soldier and officer. My advice to the junior cadets would be the following: Prepare yourself as much as possible and rely on your battle buddies for the rest. I did a lot of preparing before I arrived on base, but even then, it was the other 30 cadets I roomed with that helped me fill in the cracks and made life a lot easier. Whether it’s an item or just advice, be there for your battle and they’ll be there for you.”