For Cadets with a case of acrophobia, the confidence course at Operation Warrior Forge at Joint Base Lewis-McChord can be a daunting task. Whether it’s climbing 30 feet in the air to shimmy across a rope, or weaving in and out of logs, the Cadets are expected to complete the course. Words of encouragement are heard from peers and Cadre throughout the event because when it comes to the Leader and Development Assessment Course, no one is left behind.
Regardless of the height, Cadets face their fears and complete the various obstacles aimed at building Cadet confidence and teamwork. The completion of the individual obstacles is more important to Cadre than having the Cadets finish under a certain time. For safety reasons, only the squad-level course is timed.
“As long as [the Cadets] take something from this course, we’re happy,” said 1st Sgt. Paul E. Mattingly II, the confidence course non-commissioned officer in charge.
For many Cadets, they walk away with a sense of accomplishment after surmounting their fear of heights, but that doesn’t negate the crippling paranoia they feel prior to attempting the Stairway to Heaven, a tall ascending series of ropes, beams, and ladders.
Cadet Shayonda Williams, 3rd Regiment from Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Ga. went into the course hoping to conquer her fears and build trust in her battle buddies.
“The most important thing is trusting and having confidence and working as a team because you can’t do this without your team,” said Williams.
Cadet Travis Mable, 3rd Regiment from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa. realized that it might seem easy on the big screen, but actually going through it would be a totally different animal.
“You see stuff like this in the movies, but doing it is a little different,” said Mable.
Safety is a big concern to Cadre who are responsible for overseeing the 6,064 Cadets scheduled to complete the course. A composite risk assessment form has been completed to assess every possible safety concern on the course. Worst-case scenarios are mitigated well in advance to decrease safety risks, and daily risk assessments are also completed. On the morning of the confidence course for 3rd Regiment, high-risk obstacles were closed due to the rain the previous evening.
“We must make the analysis of what possible things [Cadets] can face out here,” said Gary P. Fortunato, senior military advisor. “We must protect the most valuable asset we have, the individual.”
Once daily risk assessments are completed, Cadre are ready for Cadets to complete the course. Over all, Cadre are hoping that Cadets will become closer with their regiment and become excited to be a part of a team at the end of the day.
“They should be happy because it’s like a big jungle gym,” said Mattingly.