Air Assault: A Chaplain’s Reflections

Chaplain (CPT) Phil Persing
Regimental Engineer Squadron
3d U.S. Cavalry, Fort Hood, Texas

April 2019

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend U.S. Army Air Assault School at Ft. Hood, my current home station. Affectionately billed as “The Ten Toughest Days” in the Army (a highly debatable statement, but it makes the point), Air Assault students are subjected to rigorous and relentless physical and mental demands. The training focuses primarily on helicopter operations, training Soldiers in everything from aircraft hand and arm signals to external load inspections to actually rappelling from Blackhawks. Graduates must complete an obstacle course, multiple written and hands-on exams, and two timed ruck marches (6 mi. and 12 mi.).

Students Conduct Their Final Rappel
From a UH-60 (Blackhawk)

Participation in Air Assault School is completely voluntary. No one asked me or expected me to sign up for this. So, why would a chaplain care to subject himself to Air Assault School?
Aside from the general fulfillment of pushing oneself to new levels and learning new skills, there are reasons why Air Assault School is a particularly valuable opportunity for chaplains.

Students Conduct Their
Final Rappel From a UH-60 (Blackhawk)

First, chaplains are much more likely to “win a hearing” with other Soldiers if we go where they go and experience what they experience. I developed quick connections with fellow students during those weeks because we trained and suffered together. This opened doors for conversations about the gospel and our public Christian witness through words, as well as prayer with students as we approached the final assessments in the school.

Graduation Day
(That’s Me in the Middle!)

Additionally, Air Assault experience has positioned me to be an informed encourager and cheerleader for future Soldiers in my unit who aspire to this training. It is yet another point of connection to develop relationships with those I serve, and I now know better how to pray for each one who goes through the school.
I thank God for the opportunity for this training—may He use it to declare His glory and goodness among Soldiers!

Graduation Day
(That’s Me in the Middle)

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