Soldier Becomes First Amputee to Graduate From Air Assault School

PHOTO: Army Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson, an amputee with the 101st Airborne Division graduated from air assault school on April 29, 2013.Sgt. Joe Padula/U.S. Army
Army Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson, an amputee with the 101st Airborne Division graduated from air assault school on April 29, 2013.

Sgt. 1st Class Greg Robinson endured 10 grueling days of navigating obstacle courses, strenuous runs and repelling out of helicopters in Army Air Assault school, and he did it all with a prosthetic leg.

"A disability is only a disability if you let it hold you down," he told

On Monday, Robinson, 34, became the first amputee to graduate from Fort Campbell's Sabalauski Air Assault School in Kentucky, where he said he "was treated like any other student."

Known as the 10 toughest days in the Army, the school teaches air assault techniques and graduates 3,500 students a year, said instructor Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Connolly.

While attending the school isn't required, Robinson, who has been in the Army for 16 years and recently became a platoon leader, said he wanted to set an example.

"I didn't feel right saying you have to go to Air Assault school if I am not qualified myself," he said.

While the physicality of the school may be too much for some, Connolly said Robinson showed tremendous resilience, whether it was repelling from a helicopter or running with 35 pounds of gear strapped to his back.

"We were extremely impressed with his performance throughout the course," Connolly said.

The toughest day for Robinson was the final day of school. During a grueling 12-mile run he said he began to have problems with his prosthetic leg.

"When I usually walk over six miles, my leg starts to swell and it doesn't fit as good," he said.

A piston broke in his leg, he said, and his fluid strides became more difficult. But those who knew Robinson said they knew he wasn't one to quit, and so he kept on racing until he crossed the finish line.

Life as an Amputee

After he was wounded in a firefight in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2006, Robinson said he felt "down in the dumps." That changed when he arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

"I looked around, and there was a good camaraderie. There was a guy who was a triple amputee, a guy who was a quad. We used each other to just bounce back and get back into the fight," he said.

Robinson said he lives a normal life, doing all of the things he used to do. He wants new amputees, including soldiers and those maimed in the Boston bombing, to know that their disability doesn't have to keep them sidelined.

"Put 100 percent into your rehab," he said. "The first three months you are wounded, that is the biggest time you get the most bang for your buck during rehab."

He said he left Walter Reed after a year and began jumping out of airplanes at Fort Bragg before he moved to Fort Campbell with his wife and 4-year-old daughter. His wife is pregnant with their second child, a daughter, due in July.

Robinson has four years left before he is eligible for retirement. He said he wasn't sure yet what his next challenge would be, but he planned to make the most of his time in the Army, and hoped to inspire others.

"My biggest thing," he said, "is I want the soldiers to see that even if they have been wounded, their military career isn't over."