The Charger Blog

Criminal Justice Major Earns Highly Coveted Air Assault School Certificate

Facing down 2 a.m. wake up calls, grueling training runs, and an endless array of challenges at the U.S. Army’s Air Assault School at West Point, Kevin Boyle '24 said success came from digging deep and pushing forward.

July 20, 2022

By Jackie Hennessey, contributing writer

Kevin Boyle '24 with his parents Michael and Julie Boyle after graduation.
Kevin Boyle '24 with his parents Michael and Julie Boyle after graduation.

It was 4 a.m., the last day of Air Assault School, and Kevin Boyle ’24 was marching 12 miles in the dark fields around West Point, a 40-pound pack on his back. It was humid, raining, and muddy, but on he marched.

He had to finish in under three hours, then have his pack inspected. “One missing thing – a pen, a highlighter, or you forgot to pack your running shoes – and you’re gone,” Boyle says. “We lost three guys to that. At any time, you could fail.”

Boyle, who is a cadet in the University of New Haven’s Army ROTC program, knew that he wanted in on the Army’s Air Assault School. He trained all year at the University to prepare. He says advice from his Military Science professor Sergeant First Class Branon Ryals, MEd, was crucial. “He told me, 'Trust your training, your equipment, and yourself, and you can do what you need to.' So, I kept that mindset throughout the course, and it definitely paid off.”

He started the 10-day program with 272 other cadets from around the country. Nearly 100 didn’t make it through.

Boyle did.

Day 5: Preparation for sling load testing.
Day 5: Preparation for sling load testing.
'You’re continually problem solving'

The challenges began with a two-mile run and an obstacle course with seven minor and two major obstacles to complete. “The one obstacle that really got people is called 'the tough one,'" Boyle says. It involved rope climbing up onto a beam, walking across a series of additional beams to test balance, climbing a ladder with rungs about four feet apart and climbing down a cargo net with hands on the vertical netting, feet on the horizontal netting, “and it has to be done exactly right.

“You’re thinking ‘how am I going to get over this?’” he says. “You’re continually problem solving.”

If cadets missed a minor obstacle, they could try once more but there were no second chances on the major obstacles. Boyle passed every obstacle on the first try.

'I think that it is something you have to find within you'
Day 7: Introduction to rappelling.
Day 7: Introduction to rappelling.

Because Army personnel and equipment are often transported by helicopter across mountainous or challenging terrain, and because soldiers have to drop down into enemy territory from helicopters, the cadets had to know how to rappel and how to precisely pack equipment and hook the equipment underneath the helicopter.

For one test, the cadets had to inspect sling loads – cargo loads that are hooked to the underside of the copter – and identify three problems – as seemingly minor as a dangling strap, in two minutes. “Everything has to be packed meticulously,” Boyle says, noting that in combat, soldiers’ lives are at stake, and the equipment being transported is very expensive.

His method for dealing with the physical and mental challenges was reminding himself to “roll with it,” he says. “Don’t let it freak you out too much. I think that it is something you have to find within you.”

‘I’ve always been surrounded by a culture of service’
Day 10: 12-mile ruck march.
Day 10: 12-mile ruck march.

From his earliest years, Boyle knew he wanted to serve. He grew up in West Roxbury, Mass. in a family with deep ties to the military. His father was in the Marine Corps, his grandfather in the Army, his uncle in the Air Force, his great grandfather served in the Navy in World War II, and his brother recently enlisted in the Marines.

“I was raised by my father being a firefighter, my mother a nurse, and my uncles both a firefighter and a police officer, so I've always been surrounded by a culture of service,” Boyle says, and that drew him to the University. “When I looked into the Military Intelligence branch of the Army," explains Boyle who hopes to start in the Infantry branch before moving into Military Intelligence, "I felt that would be a great segue into what I wanted to do following the Army, working in a federal agency. My Criminal Investigations class my first year reaffirmed that desire.”

“I chose the Army because they offered me a great opportunity to pursue a military career and be a college student at the same time,” he continues.

“The most awesome experience of my life so far”
Kevin Boyle '24 after graduation.
Kevin Boyle '24 after graduation.

Boyle loves studying criminal justice and investigative services and being part of the University of New Haven community. “I’ve made incredible friends even during COVID times…friends I’ll have in my life for a long while,” he says.

He says so much of what he learned this summer – the attention to detail and the leadership skills he cultivated, in particular – will help him in upcoming courses like Scientific Methods in Criminal Justice and in his career.

The experiences he had at Air Assault School – like rappelling out of a Black Hawk helicopter hovering 65 feet off the ground – “the most awesome experience of my life so far” – will stay with him always, he says.

“You earn your certificate,” he says. “Every single day they want to see how far they can push you. On that last day, I was exhausted. My whole body hurt but I was thrilled afterwards. It felt amazing.”