Soldiers conquer fears, ascend new heights in physical readiness
February 13, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (Feb. 13, 2014) -- "Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, 100 percent and then some," is Part 5 of the Ranger Creed.
It's just one of the many testaments that 1st Lt. Jeshurun Plumb, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, promised himself years ago as he graduated the Army's Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga.
Mentally alert and physically strong are just a few of the characteristics Plumb displays on a regular basis as an all-around motivator to the Soldiers in his battalion. One way he does this is by taking them to conquer their fears and test their fitness through rock climbing.
Since coming to Fort Sill as a field artillery platoon leader and executive officer, Plumb takes anyone he can convince to climb the faces of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. From private to battalion commander, Plumb volunteers him time and teachings to Soldiers and family members willing to make the trip and challenge themselves with his assistance.
"I heard him talking to some Soldiers about climbing and he invited me along," said Sgt. Albert Alcantar. "It feels like we've just started, but we've been coming out here almost a year now, even bringing groups from churches out here to teach the kids how to climb."
Plumb climbed a bit as a child, but it wasn't until he tagged along with friends to an indoor gym in Oklahoma City that his passion for climbing unveiled itself.
"Finding out that the wildlife refuge here in our backyard is a premier climbing location was a big spark for me, along with my former battery commander handing down some equipment he no longer used," said Plumb.
He has taken individual Soldiers out to the refuge to climb, as well as groups up to 20 people. Plumb said it is the joy of being outdoors with nature along with the breathtaking views that tend to have climbers coming back for more. Once he started taking people out in early 2013, the word spread quickly. Anytime the weather was nice, Plumb introduced folks to the refuge's rugged mountains.
"Most of the time it's just a couple of us, but I've gone out with larger groups of people, some who just want to rappel," he said. "It really gives us the chance to get to know one another and learn to trust each other."
Many Soldiers from 2-5th FA have taken Plumb up on his open invitation to join him. Several have gone just for the purpose of conquering their fear of heights, while others were interested in building their mountaineering skills.
Those techniques are needed in today's Army with the rough terrain found on various deployments.
"It has been really great to see guys come out here and conquer their fears. I've had so many fantastic teachers throughout my life who have made me who I am today, and it is my privilege to give back to others," said Plumb.
Alcantar has been going consistently the past year and has watched Plumb grow through climbing.
"I remember when we first started and he barely had any gear," said Alcantar. "Now he has all this fancy gear to help us climb and even replaced his pull-up bar with this thing that he hangs from by his fingertips in the middle of his kitchen to make his fingers stronger for climbing."
Climbers quickly develop arm, back, finger and core strength as a result of the many reaches and holds that they use to move from one point to the next. Rock climbing has proven to be an excellent sport to increase a person's level of fitness while testing their balance, coordination and mental focus.
Climbing the way Plumb does, the smallest of indents in a rock will shape his strategy for the whole climb. Each fine detail is analyzed before moving fingertips or feet toward the spot, gracefully adjusting his body to ensure he keeps what little hold he has on a rock as stable as possible.
The guests of Plumb solely rely on him for their safety. He quadruple checks all his safety measures, making sure if something were to break there will be little, if any impact, never failing his comrades. Each clip atop the rock is aligned with three others, allowing the climber to remain at the same position should the clip fail. Any unexpected movement of the rope could cause climbers to lose their balance and fall.
"When he goes to set up the ropes he takes awhile up there making sure everything is perfect," said Sgt. Sean Henry. "I would much rather have him take a little more time and know that my life is in good hands than hurry and risk getting seriously hurt."
Climbing relies on teamwork and trust. There is a leader, just like in the platoon formations, who forges a safe path, with an attentive belay as a safety should the leader fall. Climbers have to focus 100 percent of the time on what they are doing while planning their next move. The last thing a climber wants is to move to a spot only to not be able to advance.
No one can help a climber; for that person, it is a test of muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, trust, balance and mental agility. Plumb has challenged his Soldiers, all while helping them reach new heights of personal accomplishment.
"When climbing, it's the climber and the rock," said Plumb. "On the flip side, a climber puts his or her life in the hands of the belay and relies on that person with their life, quite the intimate experience that really brings people together as they tackle challenges."