By Vince Little, The BayonetAugust 23, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Soldiers in their second week of basic combat training took a first crack at Sand Hill's Eagle Tower Aug. 17.
The group from B Company, 1st Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment, took turns climbing and descending the iconic structure, which features "A-frame" steps, wooden ladders and platforms, roped bridges, a cargo net and 40-foot rappel wall. Unit leaders said the obstacle builds teamwork, motivation and confidence for the so-called "Red Phase" of training - which covers the first three weeks - and the remainder of the cycle.
"It's allowing them to see they can accomplish things they've never done before," said SGT Steven Denney, a drill sergeant. "Most have never been off the ground in their lives. This gives them a personal confidence boost and also promotes team camaraderie.
"We just build them blocks till graduation date and keep the process going to them becoming a Soldier."
Some trainees picked up the rappelling techniques quicker than others, springing off the wall and toward the ground with relative ease. But all urged each other along as they went up and down Eagle Tower.
CPT Monica Timmons, the company commander, said the Soldiers gain trust in the equipment during the outing.
"They're overcoming not only the obstacles but the fears they may have," she said. "To them, something like this is a first-time experience. We have some privates who have never even been camping before. They're learning how to work as a team."
Timmons said B Company has 210 trainees this cycle - 88 are headed for active duty while more than 40 will attend Officer Candidate School. The rest are National Guard and Reserve Soldiers.
Denney said self-confidence and drive are the keys to overcoming Eagle Tower.
"That's all it is - personal courage," he said.
Before week's end, the company also was set to engage the obstacle course, Leadership Reaction Course, confidence course and gas chamber, Timmons said. Graduation is Oct. 14.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
"I was pretty nervous going across it, but the team kept me going, cheering the whole time. I never had a fear of heights; I just didn't want to be the one to fall and let everyone down ... I've learned we're all part of a team here. We need each other to get by, no matter how hard or simple the task."
- PVT Dennis Scherer, 18, of Piqua, Ohio
"On the first ladder, I was kinda worried I'd fall or slip, and it would be a lot harder than it was, but it was surprisingly easy. The rope bridge was the same way. And on the cargo net, I was smiling the whole way down ... Sometimes, things that look the hardest or most intimidating turn out to be the most easy, if you put your mind to it."
- PVT Neal Stewart, 18, of Shafer, Minn.
"I was thinking I might fall. It's scary when you first look down. I thought, 'Don't look down, keep your feet and shoulders apart.' You just fight through it, think about the Army values of never quitting and get through it ... When you finally get the hang of it, everything falls into the right place at the right time."
- PV2 Cedrick Ward, 18, of Memphis, Tenn.