Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

SDSU Army ROTC Cadet Accepted into Elite Air Assault School

Cadet Caylee Van Houten will join college-level cadets and military members at an elite military academy, working to earn her “wings” and lead her own platoon of soldiers.

SDSU Army ROTC Cadet Accepted into Elite Air Assault School

Cadet Caylee Van Houten

by Aleah Jarin

April 11, 2021

Cadet Caylee Van Houten will be reaching new heights, literally and figuratively, in summer 2021. The San Diego State University Army ROTC sophomore will attend Air Assault School at United States Military Academy at West Point in New York from June 29 to July 13.

This physical and highly competitive two-week program involves rappelling from helicopters, learning how to attach different equipment to the aircraft, and taking written and practical exams.

Van Houten has known she wanted to enter the military since her senior year of high school. She was awarded the Army ROTC Four-Year National Scholarship which covers all four years of her education at SDSU.

“I chose the Army specifically over the other components of the military because my dad did the Navy and my uncle did the Air Force, so I kinda wanted to pave my own path,” Van Houten says.

In her freshman year, Van Houten joined SDSU’s Army ROTC Ranger Challenge Team where cadets undergo physical training and participate in competitions. Van Houten was one of the youngest, and one of only two females on the team.

Through this team, Van Houten learned about various summer opportunities she could participate in to boost her status.

“Air Assault is one of the many opportunities we have as an ROTC cadet [and] … I wanted to increase my chances of getting a good OML score which is the Order of Merit List,” Van Houten says.

Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Parlette, Professor of Military Science for the Army ROTC program, has observed Van Houten through her participation on the Ranger Challenge Team and says Van Houten displays all the characteristics required to complete Air Assault School.

“Caylee’s drive, mental toughness, physical capabilities, and natural leadership abilities will benefit her as she completes Air Assault School … she is incredibly driven and intrinsically motivated to succeed,” Parlette says.

Parlette added that “Assault School is one of the most demanding courses the Army offers,” and, “unlike some other courses which are solely physically demanding, Air Assault School requires mental agility as well.”

“Attendees are tested on different topics, from tensile strength of certain materials used for sling load operations to aircraft capabilities and capacities,” Parlette says. “With a cumulative GPA of over 3.7, Cadet Van Houten has the intellect and study skills necessary to grasp the material and difficult concepts required to pass the written and practical exams.”

In preparation for the physicality of this program, Van Houten says she’s been going to the gym frequently and preparing for the timed “ruck marches,” she has to complete.

“We have to carry our rucksacks on us which are usually anywhere from 25 to 30 pounds, and we’ll be getting graded on a 6 and 12-mile march where we have to make it under a certain time.”

Though strenuous, Van Houten is excited to rappel out of helicopters and is looking forward to completing this program and leading her own platoon of soldiers.

“I’m really excited for this program, not for me necessarily, but for my future soldiers I’ll be leading in the military,” Van Houten says. “After you complete ROTC, you’ll be commissioning as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army which means you have to be a leader in [the soldiers’] eyes.”

Van Houten hopes that completing Air Assault School will show that she can be a great leader who works just as hard.

“Hopefully I can prove to myself and everybody else that I was able to get everything together in order to go through Air Assault School, and hopefully that will help me gain respect from my future soldiers.”

“Caylee’s selection to attend is representative of her drive, but also the continued high caliber of Cadets that we have in the Aztec Army ROTC program. I have no doubt that Cadet Van Houten will represent the Aztec Battalion well,” Parlette says.

For more information on SDSU’s Army ROTC program, visit their website.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

More PSFA Stories