Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO students to attend air assault training on April 17

Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Before leaving for air assault training, Josh Sample (left) and Kaden Shipley (right) show off their Show Me Gold polo shirts. Shipley and Sample are two of the soldiers leaving for air assault training on April 17th.
Photo by Allie Jones

On March 29, 2023, two Black Hawk helicopters collided during an air assault training near Fort Campbell, Ky., resulting in the deaths of nine soldiers. Two of these soldiers were from Missouri. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Zachary Esparza from St. Louis attended Southeast Missouri State University and was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, according to Esparza’s obituary. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith from Rolla, Mo., also died in the crash.

Four SEMO students, Kaden Shipley, Josh Sample, Bryant Vaughn and Ethan Miller, are set to leave for an air assault training April 17.

SEMO’s Show Me Gold program officer Captain Nelson Tillman explained the preparations attendees must take for this type of training.

“They just did the Army Combat [Fitness] Test, which is several events. There’s a deadlift, push-ups, standing power throws, plank, two-mile run. There’s a lot that goes into it,” Tillman said. “They have to score at least an 80 on each of these to be able to go to air assault.”

Private First Class and freshman business administration major Kaden Shipley said the recent deaths of soldiers affected how he approached air assault training.

“I want to try to fill their shoes as best as possible and try to help other soldiers to be as good as they were,” Shipley said.

Shipley is preparing for the training, which has many levels of mental and physical challenges.

There are three different phases of air assault training, according to Shipley. First, is “Day Zero,” which consists of completing an obstacle course and a two-mile run in uniform. After passing those, the trainees are entered into “airsoft,” which is where they learn how to operate the different helicopters and equipment, while also taking physical tests. Phase three is when the trainees learn how to repel off towers and Black Hawk helicopters, Shipley said.

Tillman said they have a list of prerequisites the soldiers have to meet before they can be considered for training.

Specialist E4 and freshman criminal justice major Josh Sample said he goes to the gym at least seven times a week with other soldiers to prepare physically for the intense air assault training.

The challenge is not just physical, but also mental.

“I’ve gone into this with the mindset that I’m gonna crush it,” Shipley said. “I try to push the negatives to the side.”

Sample said he tries to do something to get out of his comfort zone every day because “doing harder things makes the hard things seem a little easier.” Having goals that are higher than the current goal puts him in the right direction, he said.

Once the soldiers head out for the air assault training on April 17, they will complete the training in 11 days and finish April 28.