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NEWS | Dec. 22, 2023

88th Readiness Division Soldiers earn Air Assault Badge

By Christopher Hanson 88th Readiness Division

Col. Benjamin Owen and Sgt. 1st Class Angel Olivo of the U.S. Army Reserve's 88th Readiness Division earned the coveted Air Assault Badge after their successful completion of the Air Assault Course at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Dec. 13, 2023.

According to the Sabalauski Air Assault School, the arduous 10-day course trains Soldiers in air assault operations, sling-load operations, and repelling. Classes focus on missions performed by rotary wing aircraft, aircraft safety, aero-medical evacuation procedures, pathfinder operations, principles and techniques of combat assaults, rappelling techniques, and sling-load operations.

Both Owen and Olivo are Reserve Soldiers on active orders, currently attached to the 88th Readiness Division Headquarters in Fort Snelling, Minn. They were able to dedicate time to train and prepare to attend the course as senior leaders.

Owen has kept Air Assault on his bucket list for more than 22 years. Having selected Airborne School as a cadet, he wasn't able to complete Air Assault throughout his career, although it had been one of his professional goals to attend and graduate from the course. With the support of 88th Readiness Division leadership, both he and Olivo were selected for class 07-24.

Olivo has wanted to attend the course for many years, but the timing never worked out until now. In describing his experiences in the course as a senior non-commissioned officer, he said a lot of lower enlisted looked up to him for guidance and questions about the Army and Army Reserve. His ability to mentor others also helped him focus to complete the course.

"This course was probably the top highlight of my Army career," Olivo explained. "Earning this badge showed me that age, specialty and everything else are just numbers but as long as I stepped up to the challenge, I could still do this."

The course was demanding, both mentally and physically, and required a steady dedication to be able to complete. Of the 300 Soldiers who began the course, only 142 graduated and earned their Air Assault Badge.

Both credit each other with the motivation to push through the challenges.

"Sgt. 1st Class Olivo was an amazing battle buddy," Owen said. "We made sure we always had what we needed, that we were on time, and encouraged each other along the 6- and 12-mile ruck marches."

"We will never forget that we completed this course at a senior level and at our ages," Olivo added.

He highly recommends the course to any Reserve Soldier who is interested and willing to put in the required conditioning and training. "Just go! Be ready but challenge your mind and physical fitness. The overall outcome is a great feeling," Olivo said.

"If I can do it, so can you!" Owen encouraged. "If you choose to go, ensure you are physically fit and go with a battle buddy who can and will encourage you throughout the course!"

Olivo added with a smile, "earning the badge at over 40 years old, we had to show that the old guys still had it."