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Montana Airman awarded top Army school honors

GREAT FALLS, Mont. --

A 120th Airlift Wing member graduated as distinguished honor graduate of the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas September 23.

Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney, emergency manager with the 219th RED HORSE Squadron was selected to attend the school to complete training for the squadron's new air-insert site assessment team capability.
219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney instructs squadron members on packing personal equipment during deployment preparation at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)
219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney instructs squadron members on packing personal equipment during deployment preparation at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)
219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney instructs squadron members on packing personal equipment during deployment preparation at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson) 219th RHS Airman awarded top Army school honors
219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney instructs squadron members on packing personal equipment during deployment preparation at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

“With the rearrangement of our training packages we have received the authorization now to have an air-insert team,” said 219th RHS Commander Col. Rusty Vaira. “Sergeant Sweeney’s our first air assault qualified member. He’ll now lead that team, do the training and get the rest of the team prepared for full-mission capability as we go forward.”

The mentally and physically challenging course lasted two weeks and was split into three phases. During the course Sweeney learned combat air assault operations, how to rig equipment to rotary aircraft using a sling and was provided basic instruction on rappelling from helicopters.

Sweeney said this training will help his squadron move equipment from one location to another during their deployments.

“What this really allows us to do is be self-sufficient,” Sweeney said. “As long as we can get in contact with an aviation unit we have the capability to move our equipment from point A to point B, or to where we need to fix an airfield or build a bed-down camp. We’ll now be able to move that and not have to use ground assets.”

Sweeney appreciated the quality of training and the attention to detail stressed by the Army instructor cadre during the school.
The United States Army Air Assault Badge is displayed on 219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney's Air Force uniform Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)
The United States Army Air Assault Badge is displayed on 219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney's Air Force uniform Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)
The United States Army Air Assault Badge is displayed on 219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney's Air Force uniform Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson) 219th RHS Airman awarded top Army school honors
The United States Army Air Assault Badge is displayed on 219th RED HORSE Squadron Emergency Manager Master Sgt. Coltin Sweeney's Air Force uniform Oct. 4, 2017. Sweeney was the first member of the 219th RHS to graduate from the United States Army Air Assault School at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

“On graduation day in the morning you complete a 12-mile ruck march,” Sweeney said. “We had three hours to complete it and had to maintain a 15-minute per mile pace with a 45-pound ruck. After completing that we did what they call a layout of our packing list, where you had to lay out all of your items. And still at that point in time, if you didn’t have one of the items that was on the packing list you would not have graduated that day. So they drove attention to detail into your brain throughout the entire course.”

Squadron leadership plans on sending an additional five or six more members to the air assault training. Sweeney will provide the initial training to the next Airmen selected to attend the school.

Sweeney’s leaders were proud of the Montana Air National Guard Airman having earned top honors during his graduation from an Army school.

“He has been prepping for this for the past six to nine months,” 219th RHS Chief Master Sgt. Scott Fink said. “His class started with 87 and they graduated with 56. He was the top honor graduate and was in the top five in the 12-mile ruck march, so I’m very, very proud of him.”

“That is an outstanding feat,” said Vaira. “That’s just one step in this process. He’ll take the knowledge that he gained and will prep the next team members to get ready to go to this training.”

Sweeney now proudly wears the Army Air Assault Badge that was awarded to him during graduation on his Air Force uniform.