Army Cadets overcome fear at obstacle course
June 24, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS McCHORD, Wash. -- The four-story ascent to the top of the rappel tower was like a roller coaster slowly inching its way to its inevitable, thunderous decent.
With apprehension and no view of the outside world from within the stairwell of the tower, Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets climbed to the top, knowing they would soon meet their fear face to face.
The rappel training is one of the obstacles and confidence training courses Army ROTC Cadets are required to navigate during the Leader Development and Assessment Course, also known as Operation Warrior Forge, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord June 21.
“Is there anybody here that has absolutely no apprehension or fear to go off the top of this tower,” asked Sgt. 1st Class David Lykens, rappel master, University of Minnesota.
Lykens asks this question during each rappel briefing and he explains how it is necessary to have respect for the height because overconfidence leads to accidents in the field.
To simulate the atmosphere of the field, the Cadets first navigated a series of obstacles, where teamwork, motivation, encouragement and leadership determined the future officers’ success.
The “Low Wire” required the Cadets to low crawl on their backs to narrowly avoid the jagged barbed wire. The “Weaver” proved difficult as the Cadets weaved in-and-out of a pyramid of logs. Failure to overcome each obstacle resulted in a “no-go” which means they would have to navigate the obstacle again.
“The overall purpose of this is basically for them to start working together as a team and to motivate themselves through the course,” said Master Sgt. Ray Garza, confidence course noncommissioned officer in charge, Texas A&M;University. “As they finish, they realize they’ve accomplished something.”
The confidence course provides an arena for the Cadets to not only build their confidence and personal courage but to also develop their leadership skills. The goal is to finish as team, and the Cadets high levels of camaraderie and motivation proved crucial in achieving their goal.
With the last Cadet maneuvering under the barbed wire, it was time to march from the obstacle course to the next hurdle of the day: the rappel tower.
As the Cadets tied their Swiss seat rappel harnesses, they realized that today was the day to overcome any lingering fear of heights which became apparent as they viewed the tower.
“We’re trying to build up their confidence,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Lykens, rappel master, University of Minnesota. “Once you’ve overcome a fear of your own, your confidence level will sprout out into everything you do.”
Pairs of cadets shuffled to the edge once they reached the top of the rappel tower. Thirty-seven feet is all it takes to be planted firmly and safely on the ground again. To get there the Cadets would have to respect their fears and place their trust in their training and equipment.
“You gain a lot of trust in yourself and know that you can do anything you put your mind to,” said Cadet Kevin Gillespie, Texas A&M;University.
With his back to the edge of the tower, Gillespie used his brake hand on the rope to hold him in place. On the left side of the Tower his fellow Cadet, Guy Mbemba, North Carolina A&T;University, stood ready to lower himself down. The rappel master gave the command to rappel, and the Cadets kicked off the wall and swooped down and descended in 10-foot increments to the ground.
“It’s always cool to see how easy it is to rappel down such a thing with such simple equipment,” said Gillespie.
While some Cadets were more hesitant than others, failure to execute was unacceptable.
“We won’t let them quit,” said Lykens. “Their confidence level shoots up when they go down.”
There may not be a 37-foot wall in the middle of Afghanistan but knowing how to overcome the fear of heights provides the Cadets with the well roundedness it takes to be an Army leader.
Completing the obstacle and confidence training courses bring the Cadets one step closer to their ultimate goal of being commissioned as second lieutenants into the active Army, Reserves or National Guard.