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Air Assault School, 10 Toughest Days in the Army

Aired September 20, 2001 - 15:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we move onto military action and we have correspondents stationed at military bases all around the country. We are going to check in now at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. That is the home of the 101st Airborne Division and also where we find our Brian Cabell, in Fort Campbell in Kentucky today. Brian, hello.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Daryn. Air Assault School day number nine. It is a 10-day course, this is one of the final tests here. A Blackhawk helicopter goes up with four of the students. They have to repel down 90 feet. As I say, this is the second to the last test they have. It is one of the most daunting tasks, two helicopters here.

They have already repelled down a 34-foot tower, and they just got their briefing a little while ago, and some of the faces, I'll tell you looked -- they had a little bit of anxiety on their faces.

Tomorrow they'll have a 12-hour (sic) road race. They have to complete that within three hours or fail the course. We've been told by a number of military officials that this is truly one of the most difficult military courses in the entire U.S. Army.

They started out with 181 students, this is just about a week and a half ago. They had 99 at the beginning of today. Seven more dropped out in the repelling from the tower, and we're told probably another five or ten will fail the test here. And then they have this 12-hour road test tomorrow and probably another five or ten will drop out then.

Now as you might expect, the soldiers here at Fort Campbell a little more alert to what's happening in the world than even the rest of us, because they know the 101st is frequently among the first to be deployed in war time. They fired the first shots in the Gulf War. They were in Normandy, of course, if you are watching the "Band of Brothers" on HBO. That is the 101st.

They were in Korea. They were in Vietnam. There is a certain pride here. There is certainly an expectation that if and when the time comes for ground troops to be deployed they'll be among the first of them. They are deployed by helicopter. They are sent out to battlefields all over the world, they are then dropped, unloaded at battlefields and that is how they conduct themselves.

Once again this is one of the final tests going up in one of these Blackhawk helicopters, repelling down 90 feet, methods they've learned over the last two days, and as I say, the dropout rate -- and these are all soldiers, some of them elite. We have been told colonels have come through the course, rangers have come through this course, they also have secretaries on post who come through this course.

The dropout rate among them something like 50 percent. We are told this is actually one of the better classes, because right now they have slightly more than 50 percent and they expect a good number tomorrow when they take their 12-mile road test, that a number of them will not make it. They have a 45-pound rucksack on their backs and they have to complete the 12 miles within three hours. Three hours and five minutes, they'll fail and they will have to take the test once again.

So, once again, the ninth day of Air Assault School and it is a daunting test as you can well see. Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: Brian, I think we are just going to stay on the picture a second so we can see the soldiers go out of the helicopter. Just so you know we could hear you loud and clear and in anticipation of the live shot I looking at the Web site for Fort Campbell and just as you were saying, they are saying that this Air Assault School which you described, as being so difficult is the ten toughest days in the Army.

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