FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson has become the first amputee to complete Army air assault school, a course so grueling his prosthetic leg broke twice over the 10 days spent rappelling down ropes, navigating obstacle courses and completing road marches.
Each year thousands of soldiers are physically and mentally tested at the Fort Campbell school. Instructors said Robinson accomplished everything other participants did and trainers cut him no slack even though he lost part of his right leg on a deployment to Afghanistan in 2006.
When Robinson joined teammates at graduation at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, others called his success a testament to what can be achieved by amputees. Wounds from Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing at the Boston Marathon have highlighted challenges amputee patients face in recovering.
An inspiration to the Boston bombing victims? Robinson, a 34-year-old noncommissioned officer from Elizabethtown, Ill., said his attitude was one of just wanting to grit it out and complete the program.
"Right now, I am a platoon sergeant," Robinson told reporters after graduating. "I have roughly 30 men in my platoon. As a leader, I didn't want to tell my soldiers that they needed to go to air assault school, if I am not air assault qualified."
On Monday, he had his followers: Dozens of soldiers from his unit congratulated Robinson after he graduated. His daughter, Drew, 4, and his wife, Amanda, gave him hugs and kisses.
Robinson said his traumatic injury in an attack in 2006 wasn't going to prevent him from meeting some of the Army's toughest standards or finishing his career.
"It's not my job; it's my lifestyle," said Robinson, who has deployed four times in his 16 years in the military.
The 101st Airborne Division - unlike other airborne units in planes - uses helicopters to drop troops into combat and move equipment on the battlefield.
His instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Connolly, said there was concern at one point whether Robinson was going to make it through when a piston in his leg stopped working on the obstacle course.
"He got down and fixed it, reattempted the obstacle and went back on," Connolly said.