By Matthew Langston
Leader’s Training Course
As Cadets’ knees become weak, their hands sting with pain from tightly gripping the rough rope that runs high above the ground. They close their eyes to focus as they hear their battle buddy cheering them on from below.
Amid the motivational cries, Cadets realize the only way down is to finish the course. It is this realization that boosts the confidence needed to push through to the end.
The Forest Hill Climbing Complex features a high-ropes course, an Alpine tower with hanging logs and a rock wall that stands 50 feet high. The trio of challenges aim to test Cadets’ physical endurance, but they also serve another purpose: helping them conquer a fear of heights while realizing the importance of teamwork.
Lt. Col. Troy Wisdom, officer in charge at Forest Hill, said the main goal of the site is for Cadets to build confidence in themselves and their fellow Cadets. He said they learn that teamwork is critical, relying on each other to motivate them through the course.
“We have their own peers walking with them, mentoring them, guiding them, pushing them forward,” he said. “If they hear their peer talking to them and motivating them, that pushes them through.”
Anthony Wirth, a student at Eastern Illinois University, said although he wasn’t afraid of heights, he was not confident in his skills in general coming to the Leader’s Training Course. As he prepared to face challenges such as those at Forest Hill, he expected the activities to help boost his confidence.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said. “But I’m ready to take it head on.”
Another critical point of the complex is the ground training Cadets complete before attempting the challenges. The preparation, Wisdom said, is key in helping Cadets learn the commands, how to properly wear the equipment and also to trust that equipment. As the training starts low to the ground, cadre members ask Cadets who is afraid of heights, working specifically with them to motivate them through the course.
“If you get up here and you don’t trust your equipment, then you are going to freeze,” Wisdom said. “But if you can show them here, when it’s one foot off the ground that when they fall they will be safe, then they can trust their equipment.”
Although the high-ropes course was challenging, especially parts where Cadets had to run across planks with nothing to grab for balance, those like Spencer Anderson, a student at the University of South Alabama, learned that teamwork was vital to his success. As he progressed on the course, camaraderie shone through in the form of motivational words from his battle buddy below.
Kayla Johnson, a student at Colorado State University, relied courage and trust in herself to complete the challenges. She, too, credited teamwork as motivation to overcome obstacles.
“Just her being there for me and looking up and smiling put more confidence in me,” she said of seeing her battle buddy cheer her on from the ground.
Teamwork plays a vital role throughout many challenges Cadets complete at LTC. But the bonds formed between those in uniform extend beyond their summer training.
“You cannot function individually in the Army without your team,” Wirth said. “It’s just not possible.”