HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The sound of the alarm pierces the room at 1.a.m Wednesday morning.
It is finally here. The day she has been waiting for, graduation day.
Lesley Trevizo promptly jumps out of bed and races through her morning routine. She whips her hair in a neat bun, laces up her boots and snaps the final buckles on her rucksack loaded with uniforms, extra batteries and reflective gear, before the class’ morning briefing.
Her and the rest of the air assault students listen intently as they are briefed by their cadre, given their M-16s and fill up their 1- quart water canteens.
She shuffles her way outside into the pitch black, 90-degree heat.
The clock strikes 3 a.m.
The only thing standing between her and her Air Assault Badge is a 12-mile ruck march in three hours or less.
She looks at the hardened dirt path before her.
“It’s go time!”
Senior Airman Lesley Trevizo, of Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, is the first woman in the Air Force to graduate from The Fort Bliss Army Air Assault School, Iron Training Detachment, El Paso, Texas.
“We started this program about a year and a half ago,” said Master Sgt. Scott Roy, an instructor at the school. “I earned the black hat. With that, in turn, we were able to get 20 slots for the Air Force across the Continental United States. Crew chiefs, dental, you name an Air Force Specialty Code we’ve seen it through the course. We’ve been trying to get a woman through the course, and we finally have one here this afternoon.”
In the three years that The Iron Training Detachment has been training, this is the first time that a woman has completed the course. But, for Trevizo it is not about being the first women, but challenging herself and being the best Airman she can be.
“It makes me happy. It feels good, and it’s an accomplishment,” said Trevizo. “I didn’t really pay attention to the male dominance. I just kept my mind to what I came for. I just kept telling myself I’m going to get through this, as long as I set my mind to it, I’m going to get through it.”
Trevizo was in her second year as a security forces Airman when she decided to take on the challenge of Air Assault School.
“It was brought to my attention last year when the commander mentioned he wanted to get some people to go to Air Assault School,” said Trevizo. “When he mentioned it, I didn’t really know much about it. But, I looked into it, and all of the physical challenges stuck out to me. The repelling seemed pretty fun. So, I was like ‘Yeah, I’m up for the challenge.’ When I came back from Qatar, I started training.”
Air Assault School is a 10-day course challenging participants both mentally and physically. The course is broken down into three phases -- each phase pushing students to their limits while teaching them air assault techniques. The course is known as the most challenging course in the Army.
“The O-course, or obstacle course, is where you lose about 20 percent of your people,” said Roy. “The O-course day consists of motivational physical training in the morning followed by a two-mile run in full uniform. After the run, trainees receive a Meal, Ready-to-Eat and tackle the O-course consisting of nine obstacles -- two of which require mandatory completion.
“We lose about 30 to 40 people that day,” said Roy. “During that time, Senior Airman Trevizo showed no issues during the confidence climb (apart of the obstacle course). By then, we know where people’s standards are. We know their character and what they bring to the table.”
Students must qualify for Air Assault School, which includes passing the Army Physical Fitness Test and completing a 12-mile ruck march in three hours.
“To train beforehand, we ran a lot and rucked time intervals,” said Trevizo. “We also did a lot of pushups and sit-ups to build endurance.”
Trevizo’s instructors were more than confident in her ability to complete the course.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that she wasn’t going to pass,” said Roy. “She’s super humble, super shy, but has no fear. When she did the 6 mile march, she came in second out of 22 Airmen. Her time from the 12-mile this morning was faster than my time when I went through.”
For several students the most fearful event of the course is repelling from a helicopter 90 feet in the air. But for Trevizo, it was her favorite experience.
“I was most excited to repel. I like the adrenaline it brings, and it’s fun to me,” said Trevizo. “I wasn’t worried about the physical part because I worked on my endurance. I was always in sports and always liked to work out. But, the academic, phase two, Sling-Load operations, was challenging.”
Academics classroom sessions include learning aircraft safety and orientation, Aero Medical Evacuation, Sling-Load operations and much more. All of the information students receive has to quickly be committed to memory in order to prepare for their written and hands-on testing. Each test has to be passed in order to move on to the next phases of the course.
Trevizo’s motivation to complete the grueling course stemmed from her peers and family.
“I’d like to give a shout out to my people back at Ellsworth for believing in me and keeping me motivated,” said Trevizo. “I would think about my family a lot especially because El Paso is my hometown. I thought, if I make it, my family would be able to come and see me graduate.”
Trevizo’s family was able to attend her graduation. As the whole family smiled brightly, her mom had the honor of pinning on her daughter’s Air Assault Badge.
During the graduation, Debra Salas, Trevizo’s aunt, was flooded with memories of her niece as a young girl and how she knew that young girl would go on to be a role model for others.
“I always saw that determination in her,” said Salas. “They would say, ‘She was a tomboy,’ but she always had that drive, that determination that heart — always.”