The Top 5 Army Schools

When I first enlisted in the United States Army, I thought after basic training my career would be a walk in the park.  I mean, whatever could be more difficult than the turmoil faced at BCT?  Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that Basic Training was the easy part, and the hard work doesn’t begin until you get to your unit.

As I began to take my military career more seriously, I also discovered the array of high-speed schools that the Army offers.  Soon I began to ask myself…How Tough Are You? And enrolled in my first ASI school Air Assault.  From then on I have felt inclined to continue to push myself by going to at least one school every year that challenges me both mentally and physically.  Here is a list of The Top 5 Army Schools as I See It.

5. Airborne School: Airborne School is awesome because, well…because you will learn to jump out of perfectly good airplanes!  Not only that, but this school is helpful for overcoming fears, developing confidence and honing some of your leadership skills.  I remember going through Airborne School with my Platoon Sergeant who was terrified of heights.  Airborne School helped him overcome that fear!  Also, if you ever think that Ranger School or a career within LRS or another specialty Infantry unit is in your future…be smart and get Airborne qualified!  Over three weeks you will learn how to jump correctly, land softly and move on to the next part of your mission.  You will train on the ground mastering your PLFs and how to “steer” your chute.  From the towers you will learn how to exit the aircraft, control your chute and troubleshoot malfunctions.  Last but not least, you will complete 5 jumps from a C-130 or C-17 aircraft and walk away with one of the Army’s most coveted badges and skills!

4. Air Assault School:  Over this 10-day course you will train in the field and in the classroom learning Air Assault operations.  You will learn how to prepare and rig almost every type of external load that can be transported by helicopter during Sling Load Operations.  The most fun you will have is learning the different rappelling techniques and completing 5 helicopter rappels 100 feet above the ground!  But, Air Assault School is not for the weak or timid.  It is a physically grueling course filled with tons of “smoke sessions”, obstacle courses, a lot of rucking and just pure physical angst.  But, completing Air Assault School will help develop your overall Soldiering skills, become even tougher and give yourself an edge for future promotions!

3. Pathfinder School: Over three weeks you will learn everything from securing an LZ, calculations needed to advise military aircraft Airborne Operations, medevac operations, day and night troop insertions and of course, drop-zone operations for both personnel and equipment.  Pathfinder will also leave you a certified expert in every phase and position of sling load operations.  There is more information crammed into this three week course than most can handle in a month and the experience is similar to “drinking out of a firehose”.  Pathfinders put their Airborne and Air Assault qualifications to use jumping in ahead of everyone else to secure, mark and operate LZs and DZs.  Their navigation and recon skills make the difference in all Airborne and Air Assault operations.  Earning the Pathfinder Torch sets you apart career wise as less than 1% of Soldiers in the United States Army have earned this distinctive badge.

2. Sapper Leaders Course: Just like Ranger School, you won’t eat or sleep.  You will instead learn land nav, mountaineering, demolitions, enemy weaponry, rappelling and even how to jump into water from a helicopter!  Your mind will be blown by learning knots and rucking over miles upon miles of rough terrain.  For most, this course will be the hardest they have ever worked in their military careers and they will be tested through the intense training the SLC has to offer.  This school is more than just learning how to blow things up…it is about becoming a leader and about learning how to excel under the toughest conditions!

1. Ranger School:  Yeah, who didn’t see this one coming…but it is true.  Ranger School is 62 days of the Army’s toughest training.  You will spend roughly 20 hours a day rucking and training with little to no food or sleep.  Your training will take you everywhere from the heat of Georgia, to the rugged mountains to the swamps of Florida.  The entire purpose of Ranger School is to develop combat and leadership skills under the kinds of physically and mentally challenging conditions you will face in actual combat.  Those that endure this hardship and earn the Ranger Tab are true leaders, in and out of combat.  Going to Ranger School says you care about your career and it increases your promotion opportunities exponentially.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it folks…my Top 5 Army Schools as I See It.  You may agree or disagree with my ranking or maybe believe that another school tops one of mine such as IMLC or ARC.  No matter what our opinions are, we can all agree that these 5 Schools are among the most prestigious in the Army and will test your mettle and change your life!

What do you think?  What are the top 5 Army Schools as you see it?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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13 thoughts on “The Top 5 Army Schools”

  1. One of my best friends went through 4 out of the 5 schools above and he said airborne school was definitely the most difficult. He was always really scared of heights as well and he said that 3 week time period almost made him quit. He began to doubt his ability in the field because he couldn’t overcome that one fear. After some time and incredible leadership, he was able to not only overcome his fear of heights but also he learned how to overcome the mental strongholds that helped him in other areas of his career!

  2. I am an ROTC Cadet intending to serve in a support branch, either Trans or Medical Service, within the National Guard. The way I see it I have two strikes against me in regards to applying for these schools. I am not combat arms and I am a Guardsman. That said, given my projected situation, which course would be of the most benefit and which realistically would I receive approval to attend.?

    1. You probably wouldn’t get Ranger School, but depending upon your unit and slot, I don’t see why it would be a problem to get Airborne or Air Assault School.

  3. This was a well put together list Justin. I must agree these are very top-rated schools that will advance a soldier’s military career. I would also like to mention a few other schools that can be very beneficial:

    Jag Corps- For those soldiers that have justice and law on their hearts.

    Chaplain School- Keeping God in the hearts of soldiers

    Drill Sergeant School- Training and developing the next round of soldiers.

    These are also very helpful schools. Thank you for this great post.

  4. Candace Ginestar

    Our squadron Chaplain is a Sapper…that automatically bumped him up to one of the most BA people in the universe. But no, really….it's awesome to see people excelling at schools like this. My dream is pathfinder…someday, maybe I will get the opportunity.

    1. Pathfinder is an excellent course, Candace. I think with your Aviation experience you may be ahead of the learning curve there. I would suggest Air Assault school first though.

  5. Hopefully someday I can proudly say that I went and completed each of these schools…Right now 3/5 isn’t bad. I think I have been very blessed to have been given the opportunity to attend the schools I have gone to.

  6. Faith A. Coleman

    Often, when in a difficult training situation you can believe that’s the worst, and you’ll get a breather when you finish the training. That’s what it felt like in medical school. After the didactic part of the education, we imagine that work in the hospital won’t be as difficult, or at least it will be more fun. We were wrong about that. Then it’s onto residency training, when we think we’ll have more control. I could go on but I’m sure you know what I mean. I relate to this writer in that respect. I like the idea of an annual push-me-to-the-limit experience.

    1. People get complacent. It’s important to constantly attend new schools, seminars or workshops to improve yourself. In the Army, that’s really easy to do. There are tons of personal development courses online and residential. The schools that Justin listed are definitely the top schools to develop leadership, especially for combat arms folks.

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