The Air Assault Badge is awarded by the U.S. Army for successful completion of the Air Assault School, a two-week (ten-day) course. The course includes three phases of instruction involving U.S. Army rotary wing aircraft: combat air assault operations; rigging and slingload operations; and rappelling from a helicopter.
According to the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, “The Air Assault Badge was approved by the Chief of Staff, Army, on 18 January 1978, for Army-wide wear by individuals who successfully completed Air Assault training after 1 April 1974. The badge had previously been approved as the Airmobile Badge authorized for local wear by the Commander of the 101st Airborne Division, effective 1 April 1974.” The division had been reorganized from parachute to airmobile in mid-1968 in Vietnam and designated the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). The parenthetical designation changed to Air Assault on 4 October 1974 and the name of the badge was likewise changed.
Formal Air Assault training has been conducted at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) since the Air Assault School was formed in 1974. During the early stages of the occupation of Iraq in late 2003, the division conducted a course in-theater to maintain Air Assault proficiency.
Air Assault training is also offered by the Army National Guard (ARNG) Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, which conducts training both at the post and at a variety of other locations throughout the United States by means of Mobile Training Teams.
Most of these locations no longer run Air Assault courses.
The wear of the Air Assault Badge on Army uniforms is governed by AR 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms.
Vietnam veterans of the 101st Airborne Division and 1st Air Cavalry Division have sought the retroactive award of the Air Assault Badge for their training and pioneering experience in combat, but the Army has yet to grant their request.
“Badge Designer: When he designed a badge for the 101st Abn Div in Vietnam in 1971, Maj. Jack R. Rickman thought that was the end of a project assigned by the division operations officer. Years later he recognized his design as the Air Assault Badge, which the Army adopted officially in January 1978. Rickman, who will retire from the Army in April, never earned the badge himself.”
The design was influenced by the Parachute Badge worn when the division was on jump status, as well as the Glider Badge worn by glider units during World War II. Charles Bloodworth, a pathfinder officer in the 101st during the early 1970s, wrote, “Locally designed and fabricated, the badge was deliberately crafted to mimic the glider wings of WWII.. The nose of the Huey took the place of the glider body, and the horizontal rotor blade was the spitting image of the glider wing.”
When the 101st returned from Vietnam to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the 173rd Airborne Brigade was inactivated and its assets used to form the division’s 3rd Brigade, which was on jump status. The remainder of the division was organized as Airmobile. In February 1974, Major General Sidney B. Berry, Commanding General, signed Division General Order 179 authorizing the wear of the Airmobile Badge. Concurrently it was announced that the 3rd Brigade would terminate its jump status effective 1 April 1974, the same date on which the Airmobile Badge would be authorized.
Bloodworth describes the transition of the post-war division to fully Air Assault and the adoption of the Air Assault Badge at this link.