Air Assault. So, thats happening.

Army, Chaplaincy

There was this moment. I was at the knot of the “Tough One” rope and I realized I didn’t think I was going to be able to get my leg up on the bottom beam to mount the obstacle. I had a good lock on the rope, I was high enough but my arms felt burnt and I was afraid.

Afraid I didn’t have the strength to hoist myself to the final beam.

Afraid of failing.

Afraid of having to go back to my Battalion in the shame of having the rope beat me again without the excuse of torrential rain.

Afraid of my pride.

I prayed. Reached inside and yelled, released the lock on the rope and swung my left leg up. I didn’t make it. My foot slipped and I frantically tried to relock my feet on the rope. I managed to do it and in the desperation of a man unwilling to lose his dignity, I threw my leg up, pulled with my arms and suddenly found myself on the obstacle. I had done it. There were other obstacles, other pain (some overwhelming) yet to come that day, but the one thing keeping my out of Air Assault School was over and I beat it. I felt the rush of victory and the anxiety of everything else that needed to be done that day.

Day 0

Air Assault School starts in the wee hours of the morning, long before dawn with a great deal of standing in formation, kneeling in the rocks (everything there is limestone gravel), a 2-mile run, PRT (a series of calisthenics that includes a half-dozen types of the push-up – also demonstrated the maxim that any movement done long enough eventually hurts (fire running through your body hurts) – until thoroughly smoked) and then, and only then, do you actually get to climb the rope on to the Tough One.

tough one

I completed all the obstacles and the day moved on to sitting in a classroom simultaneously trying to stay awake and avoid doing the wrong thing so as not to do more push-ups.

By the way, here is a sweet video of the O Course done by the 101 Sustainment BDE.

Day 1

Again, the wee hours of the morning. Ok, really, when your alarm goes off at 0200, its actually the middle of the night. At 0330, we had formation and by 0400, we were off on a timed 6 mile ruck march that had to be passed in order to stay in the course. I passed.

#21 out of over 160 so not bad considering most everyone there is about half my age…

After that, we had an equipment layout and inspection. I had a moment of panic thinking I had forgotten my id tags – I had, but I also had packed a spare set in my ruck so I was good – and passed that.

After the layout our class, which had started out as over 230 the morning of Day 0 was now down to less than 160. After Day 1, we were down to less than 150. I think we are sitting at about 130 now. Fairly normal for Air Assault School.


People had told me that there was a lot of classroom training in AASLT School. They are correct. Only, it’s not like any training I’ve ever had before. As a Direct Commission officer, I never went to Basic Training so I really don’t know what that was like. Lecture is simply an Instructor barking facts he has memorized directly from the Field Manual and my furiously writing them down. There really isn’t room for any kind of creative thinking. Or thinking at all. This is Army training at its finest. When the Air Assault Sergeant says, “Study Air Assault” (we are called by our roster number and Air Assault – I am “roster number 620”) what he means is memorize. Somehow, I don’t think anyone really cares about pedagogical methods and my own learning style.

Day 2

More intense PT. I expected this. I am suddenly remembering that I’m getting older. My recovery time is nothing like it used to be. I get home after a day and just want to immerse myself in a hot tub and not get out of it. At all. Ever.

Then, it’s more classroom training and some field training.

So far, we’ve learned about the various rotary wing aircraft in the Army inventory – I need to memorize things like allowable cargo loads and maximum speed/cruising speed of each etc. Air Assault Combat Operations, Aeromedical Evacuation Operations and a bunch of other things that frankly, I don’t remember at this moment. I have so much memorizing to do this weekend…

Oh and “Pathfinder Hand and Arm Signals” which I’m pretty convinced is Army Tai Che.

Day 3 is Monday and at 0600, I’ll have a written test on all this as well as a demonstration about the hand and arm signals. So much work this weekend. At least I have the weekend.

I’m glad I made it but it’ll be even better when June 10 comes along…

Suicide Stand Down

Army, Chaplaincy, Peace

“Essentially, we know what leads people to suicide — it’s stress,” Varney said. “What we don’t know is who has the ability to relieve that stress.”

This quote from an article about how Ft. Campbell, KY is actually gaining in the Army’s fight against suicide highlights the essential quandary facing our force today – how do you help a population who is living out the most stress and danger in society? It’s stress leading to the action and stress is a part of the job.

It’s tough being a chaplain in this Army sometimes. Its hard to spend great amounts of your day working with at risk individuals and then still feel like your losing the battle.

It takes prayer. Lots of it. I ask for it for our Army.

Today was suicide stand down day. Across the Army Chaplains, Commanders and other care givers stopped what operations they could (mission still needs to be done) and talked about suicide. I’m certain there are many reasons for what we are going through as an Army today not the least of which is the cost of being at war for so long. I believe that we are moving in the right direction though and have great hope that as we continue to face the dark side of problems, we’ll save even more lives.

Peace be with you.

ROTC returns to the Ivy League – a move that should be good for everyone


Read this: ROTC Returns to Harvard.

It’s a great article. Highlights the tension that exists between the upper echelons of our society (as represented by Harvard) and the profoundly middle class Army officer corps. I’m not sure how accurate that is but it seems to be my experience. The Army has been good to me. I’ve benefited from becoming a commissioned officer financially, professionally, and, dare I say, spiritually.

I hope that those coming from the halls of our most revered institutions will be able to say the same.

Army Hazing


Its stories like this that really frustrate me when I hear people talk about “the old Army.”

DETROIT (AP) — A soldier from Michigan who was struck with a large, wooden mallet at his Army base in North Carolina was seriously injured, his father said, expressing anger and shock that the incident was allowed to occur.

Ken Roach of Battle Creek said his son, Sgt. Phillip Roach, was hurt at Fort Bragg during what the Army later called an unauthorized “hazing” event to mark his promotion to sergeant. The 22-year-old knocked his head on the cement after getting hit, causing a seizure and head wound that required six staples, his father said.

Right. Cause that’s the “good ole days.” I hear it sometimes, somebody will say to me that “back in the day, they would just take it outside and settle it like men.” This new pansy Army with all it’s political correctness and sensitivity, they just need to get a case of intestinal fortitude. Right. Cause the old Army just was better.

Come on. This “pansy” Army has sustained combat for well over ten years. All volunteer. I think they’ve proved themselves over and over again to be able to “get it done.” You really want an Army where this kind of hazing is appropriate? Where a senior non-commissioned officer or commissioned officer can just do whatever they want to your child?

I don’t. I want some rules in place. If my children ever want to join the Service of their own free will and volition, I trust that the system in place will not deliberately hurt them without betterment. In other words, I get that Soldering is tough. I get that training has to be realistic, difficult and therefore dangerous. I get that sometimes people are going to get hurt – it’s training for war! I also do not want people to abuse the power and trust invested in them to train our nation’s finest.

I’m sure in this instance, there was no ill intent. I’m sure that there were traditions that are in place that this young Soldier was following. That does not make it right.

War is dangerous enough, our Soldiers are getting hurt in the field enough to allow for senseless traditions for the sake of traditions. Sometimes, this “new Army” is actually an improvement.

Further thoughts:

Last week, I watched my new Chaplain Assistant, MOS 56M, a PFC straight out of AIT take pepper spray to the eyes. It’s part of the training regimen for a Soldier who works in a prison. Here is a young man who wanted to serve his country, signed up for the Army, succeeded at Basic Training, comes to Leavenworth as a CHAPLAIN ASSISTANT and then has to take OC pepper spray in order to do his job.

Here’s how it goes, Soldier stand at the ready, OC pepper spray – spray designed to be so painful that being in contact with it will incapacitate an enraged, fighting individual so that they can be subdued – this 20 year old PFC from Virginia takes  the spray directly to the eyes! Not a wipe across the forehead, not “in the room,” and certainly not on some other part of his body where it would hurt (I speak from experience) – no, he takes it right in his eyes. He then has to complete five actions all related to being in a riot and subduing unruly people. The entire training take him about five minutes. Five minutes of shear agony. It is a hundred times worse than CS gas training or anything like it. It takes him two days to recover, both of which he comes to work and while his eyes are red and he is constantly wiping them, he does not complain.

That is training. That is tough, realistic, hardcore, hooah training. I have no issue with it. In fact, as the individual whom the 56M is supposed to protect, I am glad that I have a Chaplain Assistant who can take that kind of pain and come out swinging. And maintain his professionalism. He didn’t curse, didn’t scream, didn’t lose his cool – just grimaced through the pain with open eyes and completed his mission.

This business of hazing has nothing whatsoever to do with “making hard Soldiers.” Hazing is about the abuse of power over those who are so committed to being “one of the guys” that they take it. It has no place in a professional, all-volunteer force. I meet hardened Soldiers every day, Soldiers who don’t bat an eye at doing the hard parts of their job – but they don’t abuse others.

Hard training makes hard Soldiers.