Two local National Guard members, Spc. Tate Rodgers of Rixford and Sgt. Tyler Smead of Lewis Run, completed the Air Assault School held at Fort Indiantown Gap and earned their Air Assault wings Friday.
The men are members of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
“It was challenging, but it was a worthwhile experience,” Rodgers said.
The pair talked to an Era reporter as they were en route home from the school Friday.
“To get the wings we have been wanting for a long time made it all worth it. Not everyone gets to do that,” Smead said.
Air Assault school, which is in its second year at Fort Indiantown Gap, runs for three weeks. The school teaches combat operations that include rappelling from helicopters, logistical load plans and sling load of equipment by helicopter.
“We did a lot of running. We did an obstacle course. We hooked loads to a helicopter and made sure things were in check. We hooked up humvees and trailers, and we know more about aircraft now,” Smead said. “We did a lot of physical stuff, a lot of running and 12-mile ruck marches. The physical training was tougher than we have had before.”
However, despite the high expectations of the education, there were some thrilling moments.
“Rappelling out of a blackhawk was a fun experience that we might not get again,” Smead said. “We have both wanted to do this since we got in, and we haven’t gotten to do that before. That was the best part.”
“Especially when we found out it was from 90 feet,” Rodgers added.
Rodgers explained the pair had to wait for slots to be available in order to attend Air Assault school. Plans for the near future involve returning to civilian life and jobs. However, future training is always a possibility.
“When opportunities present themselves, hopefully we will be able to capitalize on those opportunities,” Rodgers said.
Both men were grateful for one aspect of the experience – the fact they attended the school at the same time.
“It was cool to go together. We’ve known each other six years, and it was nice to have someone to lean on when things got tough,” Rodgers said.
“We checked each other when we were in a stressful situation, and we needed to pay close attention to details. We helped each other out and we made friends and helped them out too,” Smead added.
Action photographs of the school’s attendees in action can be viewed on the 56th Stryker Brigade’s Facebook page.