|Air Assault Badge|
|Awarded by United States Army|
|Type||Special skills badge|
|Awarded for||Air Assault training course|
|Next (higher)||Pathfinder Badge|
|Next (lower)||Aviation Badges|
The Air Assault Badge is awarded by the U.S. Army for successful completion of the Air Assault School. The course includes three phases of instruction involving U.S. Army rotary wing aircraft: combat air assault operations; rigging and slingloading operations; and rappelling from a helicopter.
According to the United States Army Institute of Heraldry, "The Air Assault Badge was approved by the Chief of Staff, Army, on 18 January 1978, for Army-wide wear by individuals who successfully completed Air Assault training after 1 April 1974. The badge had previously been approved as the Airmobile Badge authorized for local wear by the Commander of the 101st Airborne Division, effective 1 April 1974." The division had been reorganized from parachute to airmobile in mid-1968 in Vietnam and designated the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). The parenthetical designation changed to Air Assault on 4 October 1974 and the name of the badge was likewise changed.
On 7 February 1963, the colors of the 11th Airborne Division were reactivated at Fort Benning, GA, as the 11th Air Assault Division (Test). The 11th was a small unit, never intended for deployable status, and used to test the airmobile concept then under development. Units of the 2d Infantry Division, also located at Fort Benning, were “borrowed” for large-scale airmobile tests and maneuvers.
An earlier Air Assault Badge, pictured on the right, was worn in the early 1960s by troops of 11th who qualified for it by making three helicopter rappels from 60 feet (18 m) and three from 120 feet (37 m). Soldiers were also required to be knowledgeable of aircraft safety procedures; familiar with aircraft orientation; proficient in hand and arm signals and combat assault operations; able to prepare, inspect and rig equipment for external sling loads; and able to lash down equipment inside helicopters. The badge was first awarded in early 1964 and was only authorized for wear by soldiers within the 11th, as it was a division award and not authorized for Army-wide wear by the Department of the Army.
On 30 June 1965 the 11th Air Assault Division was inactivated and its assets merged with the 2d Infantry Division to become the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). The colors of the 2d Infantry Division were sent to Korea where the existing 1st Cavalry Division was reflagged as 2d Infantry Division and the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division sent to Fort Benning. Shortly thereafter the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was sent to Vietnam.
Maj. Jack R. Rickman is credited with the design of the Air Assault Badge when he was in 1971 on tour with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He thought little of the outcome of the design assignment, given to him by a division operations officer, which the Army adopted officially in January 1978. He was made aware of his part in the badge design years later when he recognized his design work seen in a published photograph. He never earned a badge himself.
The design was influenced by the Parachutist Badge worn when the division was on jump status, as well as the Glider Badge worn by glider units during World War II. Charles Bloodworth, a pathfinder officer in the 101st during the early 1970s, wrote, "Locally designed and fabricated, the badge was deliberately crafted to mimic the glider wings of WWII. The nose of the Huey took the place of the glider body, and the horizontal rotor blade was the spitting image of the glider wing."
The 101st returned from Vietnam to Fort Campbell, Kentucky and the 173rd Airborne Brigade was inactivated with its assets transferred to form the division's 3rd Brigade, at the time was on jump status. The remainder of the division was organized as Airmobile. In February 1974, Major General Sidney B. Berry, Commanding General, signed Division General Order 179 authorizing the wearing of the Airmobile Badge effective 1 April 1974, the same date that the 3rd Brigade would terminate its jump status.
Bloodworth describes the transition of the post-war division to fully Air Assault and the adoption of the Air Assault Badge in his article titled, "History of the 101st (Post-Vietnam)."
According to the U.S. Army's "goarmy.com" website, the Air Assault School consists of the following phases of training:
- Day Zero: Candidates must successfully complete an obstacle course and a two-mile run before they are officially considered “Air Assault Students.”
- Day One: Candidates will undergo a six-mile march, followed by a strict inspection.
- Combat Assault Phase: During this three-day phase, candidates will learn aircraft safety and orientation, along with the principles of aero-medical evacuation, pathfinder operations, and combat assault operations among several other topics. Soldiers will be given a written and “hands-on” test following this phase.
- Slingload Operations: During the second three-day phase of Air Assault School, candidates will learn how to rig equipment onto rotary aircraft with a sling, an operation that generally requires the loading soldier to hook a tether to the underbelly of a helicopter hovering just a few feet above the ground. Typical loads can range anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 pounds. Trainees must pass a written and hands-on test before moving to the next phase.
- Rappelling Phase: In the third and final three-day phase of Air Assault training, soldiers receive basic instruction on ground and aircraft rappelling procedures. By the end of the phase, trainees must complete two rappels from a 34-foot tower and two rappels from a UH-60, hovering at 70-90 feet.
- Graduation Day: Soldiers must complete a 12-mile foot march in full gear plus a rucksack in less than three hours. Graduates are awarded the Air Assault Badge and the "2B" Additional Skill Identifier (ASI) upon completion of the march.
Formal air assault training has been conducted at Fort Campbell, Kentucky by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) since the Air Assault School was formed in 1974. During the early stages of the occupation of Iraq in late 2003, the division conducted a course in-theater to maintain Air Assault proficiency.
Air Assault training is also offered by the Army National Guard (ARNG) Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, which conducts training both at the post and at a variety of other locations throughout the United States by means of Mobile Training Teams.
A III Corps Air Assault School was announced for Fort Hood that was to start in June 2012.
Air assault training has also been conducted for varying periods of time at other locations, although many do not currently do so (2019):
- Camp Aachen, Grafenwöhr, Germany (WTC MTT conducted class for the 1st BCT, 3d Infantry Division during a six-month rotation)
- Camp Buehring, Kuwait (Cadre from the ARNG Warrior Training Center, first class conducted in April 2017)
- Camp Blanding, FL (FL ARNG; intermittent operations)
- Camp Carroll, Fort Richardson, AK (6th Infantry Division (Light) and AK ARNG)
- Camp Crowder, MO (MO ARNG hosting MTT, Feb - Mar 2012)
- Camp Gruber Maneuver Training Center, OK (OK ARNG) (1988-1994)
- Camp Rilea, OR (WTC MTT)
- Camp Smith, NY
- Camp Hovey, Korea (2001, hosted by the 2d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division); 25 February - 8 March 2013, 1st BCT, 2d Infantry Division hosting a MTT from the Warrior Training Center, Fort Benning, GA)
- Camp Robertson, Schweinfurt, Germany (2005, hosted by the 2d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division; 2011, hosted by the 21st Theater Sustainment Command)
- Fort Belvoir, VA (Military District of Washington)
- Fort Benning, GA (ARNG Warrior Training Center) (Jan 2006–Present)
- Fort Bliss, TX (MTT, March 2011; quarterly courses conducted by the post's Iron Training Detachment); last class graduated in March 2019
- Fort Bragg, NC (XVIII Airborne Corps); on May 10, 2019 XVIII Airborne Corps announced it would shut down its Air Assault course due to "funding and the reduction of borrowed military manpower on Fort Bragg."
- Fort Carson, CO (4th Infantry Division/3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment via MTT hosted by 10th Special Forces Group)
- Fort Drum, NY (10th Mountain Division)
- Fort Hood, TX (Conducted by the LRRP Platoon, 2d Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 2d Armored Division in the mid-1980s. Rappelmaster certification courses were also offered; MTT in October 2011; III Corps AAS started in June 2012)
- Fort Indiantown Gap, PA (MTT from the Warrior Training Center) (Starting annually in 2017)
- Fort Knox, KY
- Fort McCoy Total Force Training Center, WI (Light Fighter Academy)
- Fort Ord, CA (7th Infantry Division (Light))
- Fort Polk, LA (near Warrior Brigade, 128th Combat Support Battalion)
- Fort Riley, KS (1st Infantry Division; MTT in September 2009)
- Fort Rucker, AL (1st Aviation Brigade) (Nov 1983 - Oct 1995)
- Fort Pickett, VA (MTT)
- Fort Wainwright, Alaska (6th Infantry Division (Light)(Arctic))
- Fulda, Germany (11th Armored Cavalry Regiment)
- Schofield Barracks, HI (25th Infantry Division)
- U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York (MTT, June 2017)
Wearing of the badge
The wearing of the Air Assault Badge on Army uniforms is governed by DA PAM 670-1, "Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia." Under this DA PAM, the Air Assault Badge is defined as a Group 4 precedence special skill badge which governs its wear in relation to other combat and special skill badges and tabs. The basic eligibility criteria for the badge consist of satisfactory completion of an air assault training course in accordance with the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command's standardized Air Assault Core Program of Instruction or completion of a standard Air Assault Course while assigned or attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) since 1 April 1974.
Vietnam veterans of the 101st Airborne Division and 1st Cavalry Division have sought the retroactive award of the Air Assault Badge for their training and pioneering experience in combat, but the Army has yet to grant their request.
When the 101st Airborne Division was converted to air assault, it adopted the wear of the cloth background trimming (ovals) that are used to identify active airborne units --that is worn behind the U.S. Army's Parachutist Badge-- vice those who have earn their Parachutist Badge but are not assigned to an active airborne unit. According to DA PAM 670-1, "a background trimming is authorized for organizations designated (by structure, equipment and mission) 'Airborne' or 'Air Assault' by Headquarters, Department of the Army. Qualified personnel are authorized to wear the background trimming with the Parachutist Badge or Air Assault Badge." The following are background trimmings authorized for wear behind the Air Assault Badge but does not include all background trimmings authorized by the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry:
1st BN, 26th Infantry Regiment
1st BN, 187th Infantry Regiment
1st BN, 327th Infantry Regiment
1st BN, 502nd Infantry Regiment
1st BN, 506th Infantry Regiment
2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment
1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment
1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment
1st BN, 320th Field Artillery Regiment
2nd BN, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment
HHC, 1st, 5th, and 6th BNs, 101st Aviation Regiment as well as the 96th Support BN
Background trimmings have been denied by the US Army Institute of Heraldry to other units with a parenthetical designation of “Air Assault” such as the California Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment. The rationale given by The Institute of Heraldry was that units outside of the 101st Airborne Division did not have an "air assault mission." The reason various ARNG units were organized according to the Air Assault Modified Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) was because such units were authorized fewer personnel and less equipment, thus making them less expensive to operate and maintain. They were not organized with actual air assault missions in mind.
Air Force wear
All of the military services can and do send personnel to the U.S. Army's Air Assault School, but only the Air Force allows for the Air Assault Badge to be worn on the uniform. For several decades only USAF personnel attached to the 101st Airborne Division were allowed to wear the badge, and only at that duty assignment, paralleling US Army policy from 1974 to 1978 for Army soldiers; however, as of the 17 January 2014 update to AFI36-2903 (USAF uniform regulations), U.S. Air Force personnel are authorized to wear the Air Assault Badge along with other special skill badges they have earned through the other Uniformed Services. This means that only the Army and the Air Force authorize their personnel to wear the Air Assault Badge on their uniforms upon graduation of the Air Assault Course.
The Army's Air Assault Badge is not authorized for wear on uniforms of the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps. Recently, with the proper documentation filed in your unit's admin department, prior Army servicemembers who are enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard may wear the air assault badge in accordance with the latest revision of the Coast Guard's uniform manual.
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