By Sgt Daniel Kyle Johnson (2nd BCT, 25th ID )September 7, 2011
WAIALUA, Hawaii -- A young Soldier stares up at the towering structure of wooden beams and steel cables. Tightening straps and tying ropes about his body as he pays close attention to the safety information the instructor is showing the group. His heart pumps and his adrenaline spikes as he begins to ascend the thirty foot high tower.
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment 'Gimlets' negotiated an obstacle course on Oahu's north shore, Sept. 7, at YMCA Camp Erdman in an effort to improve small team communication and leadership skills. The obstacle course consisted of eight different obstacles, all of which were constructed of wooden towers reaching as high as 35 ft. Steel cabling connected the towers for the participants to negotiate their way across.
The obstacle course allows the participants to accomplish things they thought they could not do, said Fab Ciavarra, an instructor with the YMCA Camp Erdman.
While negotiating the obstacles the Soldiers were only allowed to use each other for balance. Using the structure, cabling or harnesses for balance was not allowed.
"It helps out with communication, most of the time your hands are tied up," said Spc.Casey Adams, Headquarters Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. "It helps to reach inside and pull out your communication skills you may not have realized you had."
The adrenaline is constantly coming, said Ciavarra.
Walking down the streets in Iraq keeps everyone's heart pumping, they don't know what is going to happen next, said Adams. Here it's not as stressful but still provides the adrenaline that a lot of infantry Soldiers will feed on.
Working with Soldiers for the first time allowed him to try more challenging scenarios with the obstacles, said Ciavarra. He knew he could throw anything at them and they wouldn't question it, they would just accomplish the mission.
"It helps their courage and helps them trust themselves," said Adams. "As much as you rely on your team you also have to rely on yourself to be able to pull yourself up when you fall."
"You don't know a person is a leader until they're given the chance to step up to that role," said Ciavarra.
Soldiers that aren't usually in leadership roles because of rank were able to show their leadership potential in the exercise today, said Adams.
It definitely helps Soldiers to integrate back into garrison life, said Adams. He would sign up to do things like this outside of garrison again if they become available.
"Activities like this make me excited to get out of bed and go to work," said Adams. "Knowing I'll get to work with my friends on some challenging obstacles."
High adrenaline activities and team building exercises like the YMCA Camp Erdman obstacle course are helping to reintegrate Soldiers back into the garrison life after deployments to combat zones. Programs like this help to ease the stress associated with the quick drop in regular stress and adrenaline that comes with reintegration.