By Buddy Blouin
As 2022 comes to a close, it’s a great time to take a break and reflect on the past year while planning for the new one. This sentiment can be felt universally, but for some, it’s felt just that much more. In all likelihood, the latter applies to Cooper Hayes, who didn’t just take on one difficult Army school but three this past year. Crazier, still, is that he didn’t just take the courses, but he was successful at completing them all while serving as a member of the Idaho Army National Guard.

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Cooper Hayes Has Had an Ambitious 2022

Private First Class Cooper Hayes took on several schools, and within about 11 months, he passed them all. His military career is already an impressive one, having passed the U.S. Army’s Ranger School, Airborne School, and Air Assault School. As if serving in the Army National Guard wasn’t enough, Hayes has even more ambition and is working toward his education as a student at Boise State University. He took a break to complete One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was here that he would graduate and be offered a shot at enrolling in Ranger School. An opportunity that he would take full advantage of. “I wanted to challenge myself and be the best Soldier I can be. So I decided to take another semester off and go to Ranger School. It sucked in the moment, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life,” said Pfc. Hayes.

Breaking Down the Courses

Becoming a Soldier who earns the Ranger Tab, Airborne Wings, and Air Assault Badge is a daunting task no matter what, and considering the timeframe in which Cooper Hayes achieved this feat makes it that much more impressive. Here’s a look at what he endured:

U.S. Army Ranger School

Simply put, this is one of the toughest schools to attend in the Army and military as a whole. Army Rangers are notorious for their fighting abilities, and to qualify to become one includes passing this course. To achieve success, you’re going to need to avoid becoming part of the 50%+ who don’t even make it past the first of the three phases the course requires. It lasts 61 days and puts Soldiers in situations that test mental fortitude, physical endurance, and tactical abilities. Cooper Hayes would undergo six weeks of pre-Ranger training before beginning this journey. Speaking on his transition, Hayes said, “The hardest part for me was coming straight out of basic training and then working with officers, with people that might have 10 years of experience. But I was able to adapt pretty quickly.”

United States Army Airborne School (Jump School)

If you’re going to jump out of a plane, it’s going to be helpful to know what to do in between the decision to leap and when you hit the ground. The Basic Airborne Course (BAC) prepares Soldiers to use parachutes and hone their leadership and other mental skills. This would be the next course Pfc. Hayes would take on to earn his Wings. Amazingly, after passing all three courses of Ranger School without having to repeat anything, Hayes was able to take on and pass BAC less than a month after completing Ranger School. “While I was on my way out of Benning, I heard there was going to be a chance to go to Air Assault School there, so I went back home for a couple of weeks to get ready for that,” said Pfc. Hayes.

The Sabalauski Air Assault School

After an incredible run at Fort Benning, Cooper Hayes would find himself still working toward more. This meant heading to Air Assault School in December 2022 in Fort Campbell to round out his year. Nearly 55% of students at Air Assault School fail, including 15% who quit on the very first day. Of course, by now, it should become apparent that Hayes is far from an ordinary Soldier, with all due respect to those sacrificing to keep us free in any capacity. He’d go on to pass, completing three difficult schools at a blistering pace. “Airborne and air assault were great experiences,” said Pfc. Hayes. “They are both another thing to add to my resume.”

What’s Next for Army Ranger Qualified Cooper Hayes?

As it stands, Hayes is a part of Idaho’s lone infantry company, C Company, 2-116th Combined Arms Battalion. He’s also looking to commission with the Boise State University Army ROTC program and has obviously had a year to remember. Hopefully, Cooper Hayes is taking some much-needed R&R this holiday season, but one thing’s for sure; wherever his military career takes him, big things are sure to follow.

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The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. Photo by U.S. Army




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