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Ground Combat Squadron cadre graduate Air Assault

  • Published
  • By Airman Faith Iris MacIlvaine
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Three Airmen of the 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron recently graduated from the Army Air Assault School held in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Staff Sgt. Kyree Joppy, Staff Sgt. Andres Pedrazza-Bistren and Senior Airman Nicholas Gabranidis, formal training instructors in the 90 GCTS, all passed the 10-day course designed to train soldiers on air assault operations, rappelling and sling load operations, teaching students to effectively inspect six different types of helicopter sling loads and operational application, helicopter evacuation operations, and air assault operations to include infiltration of an objective via rappelling. There are also timed rucks and runs as well as hands-on tests and practicals with a large emphasis on attention to detail and time management. These numerous standards require individuals to be mentally and physically prepared. 

“What helped my team prepare in the months leading up to attending the air assault school were the countless rucks, runs, and knot tying to stay well versed,” said Joppy. “We also hosted an Rope Master course, which really gave us more confidence in the rappelling aspect.”

The school is designed for Airmen to practice Air Assault movement, which is used to seize and hold key terrain that has not been fully secured, as well as to directly engage enemy forces behind enemy lines. To prepare for this task, potential students should focus on improving and sustaining their physical capabilities, while attention to detail is also vital for course success, according to Gabranidis.

“Sending our Defenders to specialty schools like Air Assault fill several purposes, first being filling training requirements as 90 GCTS is responsible for teaching all other Nuclear Defenders how to rappel and this course fills the requisite training to ensure we’re doing everything by the book,” said Maj. Dexter Binion, 90 GCTS commander. “Additionally, courses like this build the credibility of the unit as well as pushing our Defenders outside their comfort zone.  We’re serious when it comes to developing Airmen and challenging them to embrace the unknown and the uncomfortable, as that’s the only way we all get better: iron sharpens iron.”

Gabranidis explains the goal in sending 90 GCTS personnel to Air Assault School is to provide Cadre with vital knowledge on helicopter capabilities that, when taught, will further the Total Response Force/Complete Response Force capabilities in applying the UH-1N to daily nuclear operations. The course also sets a base knowledge for rappelling, specifically considering knot tying, basic rappel safety, and rappelling from different types of platforms (including out of a helicopter). This opens the door for instructors to get slots in the Army Rappel Master Course creating subject matter experts and strengthening Camp Guernsey’s Advanced Tactics Course and Air Force Rope Master program.

Gabranidis also won the “Ruck March Champion” award, and he offered advice for other students going through the course.

“Students in Air Assault School should rely on their teammates, be willing to learn, and stay open minded,” said Garandis. “Keeping a level head should be a priority, as well as spending free time efficiently and studying whenever possible. This is important for fully understanding the material being taught throughout the course.”

 Pedrazza-Bistren added his own advice for maintaining resiliency throughout the course. 

“My advice would be to overcome your fears and not give up,” said Pedrazza-Bistren. “Everything the school teaches is for a reason. Always show up with a positive attitude, regardless of the situation and always think back to the reason you decided to go to AA school.”

Joppy shares that his job as a cadre is to instruct rappelling operations for the Advance Tactics Course and he hopes to teach the next Rope Master Course hosted at Camp Guernsey. As one of the instructors of the 90 GCTS, the cadres need to be comfortable and proficient in rappelling, along with being able to instruct others how to rappel safely. According to Joppy, every day presented a new challenge, and the team had to rely on each other greatly . 

“It helped a lot that we kept each other laughing throughout the course. I’d say to remember why you went in the first place,” said Joppy. “This is a course I’ve wanted to attend for the majority of my career, so when I was feeling mentally drained I thought back on how I asked to be there.” 

Joppy revealed the most difficult aspects of the course were the tests.

“I spent a lot of time studying both alone and in groups. Being in the Air Force and attending an Army course, I especially wanted to make sure I was taking all the time needed to absorb the information given,” said Joppy. “For our hands-on portions we didn’t receive a lot of time to practice because of the class size so I decided to stay after the duty day was over to get more individual time with the instructors.” 

The Airmen from the 90 GCTS succeeded in passing the course, turning to each other when the training was difficult.

“The 90 GCTS Airmen did extremely well at this course,” said Gabranidis. “We stuck together and leaned on each other’s strengths when needed.”