No Such Thing as a Fear of Heights

U.S. Army Cadet Command (Army ROTC)
Story by USACC PAO

Date: 07.05.2019
Posted: 07.08.2019 16:14
News ID: 330548
No Such Thing as a Fear of Heights

By Megan Reynolds, Cadet Command Public Affairs

FORT KNOX, Ky. - Cadets of the 2nd Regiment of Basic Camp completed the High Ropes Confidence Course at the Forest Hills Climbing Complex this morning, July 5.

Climb On

The Forest Hills Climbing Complex is comprised of three different courses: The Alpine Tower, the Rock Wall and Rudder’s High Ropes Course.

Each obstacle comes with its own challenges. Some challenges may be easier to fight through than others, but the mental challenge of overcoming those obstacles can be the toughest that the Cadets encounter at this event.

Sgt. Dylan Dalton, with the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment in Fort Carson, is currently working as a safety at the Confidence Course.

Teaching Cadets to have faith in themselves and the equipment they work with comes natural to Dalton; he works with each cadet he acts as a safety for, helping them build confidence in their ability.

“The purpose of this course is to instill confidence within one’s equipment, that they set up, and within themselves,” Dalton said.

While Fort Knox is home to multiple confidence courses, Dalton said this particular course benefits Cadets differently. Working at a much higher altitude, Cadets are forced to embrace the fear they might find themselves feeling.

“The other ones [confidence courses], you aren’t tied in, you aren’t trusting yourself,” Dalton added. “This particular course is more beneficial because you’re not only trusting your equipment, you’re trusting your battle-buddies.”

Your battle-buddies act as your belays and safeties as you go through each obstacle. There’s a bond that forms there, Dalton said.

The Irrationality of Fear

Cadets are told in their brief that there is simply no such thing as a fear of heights. Heights cannot hurt you.

It’s the falling that really gets you.

And it’s made impossible for the Cadets to fall, so there is nothing to be afraid of on this course. The Cadre stress this to each and every company that comes through this event.

The equipment will catch you, you can put full trust in your belays, there is truly nothing to worry about.

“I think it’s hard to put my trust in my equipment,” Cadet De’Shown Daniels, from Columbia, South Carolina and attending Clemson University, said. “Mechanical issues… Something can always go wrong.”

Daniels said it’s much easier for him to trust his battle-buddies as belays than to trust his equipment to catch him. When it comes to “something man-made,” something can always go wrong, he said.

Daniels wasn’t the only one struggling to find faith in his equipment.

“When they showed us how to do it, I did what the demonstrator did until I got to the middle,” Cadet Meghan Costello, from Rochester, New York, and attending Rochester Institute of Technology, said. “Then I had to go to the left [of the Alpine Tower], and I didn’t trust they rope, yet.”

Willingly falling wasn’t necessarily something Costello was happy about, but when it allowed her to accomplish her climb, her fear of falling seemingly melted away. That fall ended up reassuring her, Costello said.

And while many had trouble with trusting the equipment, their trust in their battle-buddies was complete and genuine.

“One thing I do like about these courses is that you have to rely on the two people down below you,” Cadet Jonathan Quick, from Austin, Texas, and attending at the University of Houston, said. “If you are free climbing, you fall, you’re falling. Those people are there to ensure that you’re not going to fall.”

Don’t Quit, Keep Going

With a course designed to cause struggle, it is only natural for Cadets to feel that they may fail, yet they always manage to find courage deep within themselves.

“When you are smoked, tired, you’re hurt and cramping, you have that little urge to keep going,” Quick said. “You also have the people down below telling you don’t quit, keep going.”