Basic Camp

Cadets overcome fears, build confidence at Fort Knox rappel tower

A Charlie Company Cadet rappels down the rappel tower. Photo by Peyton Hobson.

A Charlie Company Cadet rappels down the rappel tower. Photo by Peyton Hobson.

By Sydney Callis
Leader’s Training Course

A large part of the Leader’s Training Course mission is to provide opportunities for Cadets to grow and boost their self-confidence. Complete with a more than 50-foot tower, the rappelling site helps Cadets confront and conquer their fears.

“It’s all rooted in trying to increase Cadets’ confidence in the system and to demonstrate some personal courage to get over their fear of heights,” Lt. Col. Ken Weiland, officer in charge of the site.

Cadets go through stations to learn the basics of rappelling even before ascending the stairs. They learn how to tie three knots – the square knot, the overhand knot and the half hitch knot – to tie a hip rappel seat and to practice the proper L-shape to put the body in when rappelling.

“With those basic fundamentals, we use a crawl-walk-run approach to teaching them how to rappel,” Weiland said. “We rappel them off the 19-foot tower and the 50-foot tower all rooted in trying to increase their confidence in the system.”

Going through the different stations and three safety inspections leading up to the tower helps Cadets adjust and prepare themselves for the 50-foot rappel.

“I was nervous when I got up there,” said Charlie Company Cadet Winston Raney of Henderson State in Arkansas. “But you just have to tell yourself to not be scared and to listen to the instructors. It’s safe. Once you’re going down, it’s really fun.”

The trainers for the site also experienced the same fear and nervousness of rappelling for the first time.

“I didn’t have a fear of heights until I came here,” said Spc. Stanley Imoh, a trainer for the site. “Once you do this, you have that fear still, but you know you can do it. It builds courage.”

The trainers also talk Cadets through their fears and help them build confidence to rappel down the tower.

“I try to assure them that they are safe,” Imoh said. “I just let them know that I have them. The hardest ones to deal with are when they cry, but I’ve only counted five that have cried.”

Come tears or fears, the Leader’s Training Course Cadets are going to rappel down the tower.

“There were a couple of Cadets who were really, really scared, and it took them the longest to come off the tower,” said Sgt. 1st Class Juan Carter, a site cadre member. “We have no company that has a Cadet that hasn’t rappelled. Even if they refuse at first, they have come off.”

For those Cadets who choose to continue ROTC when they return to their universities, this rappel training will help prepare them for future training, including the Leader Development and Assessment Course and Air Assault School and real-life situations.

“They use rappelling to safely get Soldiers down a cliffside or a hillside where they normally couldn’t traverse it,” Weiland said. “Another situation is when they use helicopters to rapidly deploy Soldiers into an area where they can’t land the helicopters.”

In his second year as a trainer at the course’s rappel site, Carter said the funnest part for him is seeing all the Cadets rappel safely.

“It’s a good feeling to see and teach Cadets how to properly rappel and to see their achievement after they have done it,” Carter said.


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