Air Assault Badge
|Air Assault Badge|
|Awarded by United States Army|
|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.
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. The first class of the XVIII Airborne Corps Air Assault School at Fort Bragg, NC graduated on October 4, 2013
Air assault training has also been conducted for varying durations of time at other locations, although most do not currently do so (2013):
- 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
- 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)
- Fort Bragg, NC (XVIII Airborne Corps)
- Fort Carson, CO (4th Infantry Division/3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment via MTT hosted by 10th Special Forces Group)
- Fort Drum, NY (10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry))
- Fort Hood, TX (Conducted by the LRRP Platoon, 2d Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 2nd Armored Division in the mid-1980s. Rappelmaster certification courses were also offered; MTT in October 2011; III Corps AAS started in June 2012)
- 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)
- Fulda, Germany (11th Armored Cavalry Regiment)
- Schofield Barracks, HI (25th Infantry Division)
An Air Assault Course is also in development at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with the first class to attend July 2017.
Wearing of the badge
The wearing of the Air Assault Badge on Army uniforms is governed by DA PAM 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms.
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.
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 glider wing played an integral part of WWII, being a strong symbolic gesture to the pilots given permission to wear this badge.
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 at this link.
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-- vise those who have earn their Parachutist Badge but are not assigned to an active airborne unit. According to DA PAM 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, "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 the wing trimmings worn by the qualified members of air assault units but do not include all trimmings that are authorized by the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry:
101st Airborne Division:
1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment
2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment
1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment
1st Squadron, 33d Cavalry Regiment
101st Airborne Division Artillery HHB, 320th Field Artillery Regiment
2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment
96th Support BN, HHC, 1st, 5th, and 6th BNs of the 101st Aviation Rgt
Army National Guard air assault units
Trimmings have been denied by the Institute of Heraldry to units in the Army National Guard, such as the California ARNG's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment although they have the parenthetical designation “Air Assault”.
As late as 2004: “current policy requires units to be designated as Airborne or Air Assault for Soldiers to be authorized the wear of the background trimming insignia on their service uniform. Force structure developers within Headquarters, Department of the Army, utilized the Air Assault Modified Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) when documenting your unit’s structure. Accordingly, the use of the Air Assault MTOE template for your organization was intended to provide Combatant Commanders a more ‘robust’ infantry structure, not to increase the number of air assault units in our Army today. Therefore, your MTOE narrative does not designate an air assault mission to your unit, nor does the current document provide the full resources normally authorized a designated Air Assault organization. Granting your request is not in keeping with the intent for which the organization was initially created; thus your request is denied.”
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.
LTG Hal Moore wearing the original badge.
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.
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