By Jeff Crawley, Fort SillFebruary 7, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Soldiers in Basic Combat Training occasionally have a full day of fun. One such day comes during Week 7 when they spend eight hours at the 1st Sgt. Forrest Peden Confidence Obstacle Course developing self-assurance, poise and self-reliance as well as team work.
The 196 Soldiers in C Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, spent Jan. 31 going through a series of stations that challenged: their abilities to handle heights, trusting their equipment and their physical stamina.
"I'm not afraid of heights too much after today," said Pvt. Shannon Rodriguez, 19, after completing the challenging Jacob's Ladder climb. "I have more confidence to do the rest of the course more effectively and faster."
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Polly Schmidt, 4th Platoon, said she wanted her Soldiers to find strength and personal courage inside them that they didn't know they had. That's what the course was designed to do.
Sometimes a Soldier will get stuck on an obstacle, she said.
"We give them an opportunity to figure out what they have to do to get themself across the obstacle," said Schmidt, who has been a drill sergeant for one year. "If we have to, we'll go up there and encourage them and help them out. I've never had a Soldier who would not complete an obstacle."
Obstacles with names like belly robber, weaver, tough nut, low wire, island hopping and skyscraper tested everything from balance to body strength to stamina to teamwork. For BCT, none of the events were timed.
The key to finishing an obstacle is staying determined and to keep moving, said Pfc. Christian Salseda, 18.
"On Jacob's Ladder, if you don't push forward you get stuck up there, and the only one way to get down is to complete the obstacle," said the Yorba Linda, Calif. native.
BCT Soldiers and Sgt. 1st Class Robert McLauchlin, 434th FA Detachment obstacle course noncommissioned officer in charge, agreed the ladder climb was one of the tougher obstacles because of its height and its increasing distance between the rungs.
"Some short people have to get onto their toes and jump up to the last rung," McLauchlin said.
Capt. Kapono Aki, C/1-40th FA commander, described the confidence obstacle course training event as a fun day for the staff (cadre), as well as the BCT Soldiers.
"It's fun to watch them overcome some of the things they have struggled with at the beginning (of BCT)," Aki said. "They get to build on the Army Values, such as personal courage."
Because several of the obstacles required Soldiers to be dozens of feet in the air, safety was paramount at the course.
Drill sergeants are required to annually get safety-certified on the use of the course, and they have a cadre safety briefing immediately before the course is used, Schmidt said. Safety harnesses, nets or padding are used on obstacles that require Soldiers to climb heights.
Pfc. Amanda Schofield, 21, of Allentown, Pa., said the confidence obstacle course reflected a common theme in BCT.
"You just have to believe in yourself, push yourself and then you can do it," she said. "It just gets easier as you move along."