By: Mattie Cook
Fort Knox, Ky.,- In their 28th day of training, Cadets of 7th Regiment, Basic Camp leaned on one another to conquer the confidence course and climbing towers at the
Cadet Vickyana Marti, Interamerican University Puerto Rico, balances on the confidence course of the Forest Hills Climbing Complex on Fort Knox, Ky., Aug. 4. (Photo by Mattie Cook)
Forest Hills Climbing Complex, Aug. 4.
The complex is designed for Cadets to face their fears, develop confidence, trust one another and overcome the obstacles set before them.
MS3 Basic Camp Trainer, Cadet Charles Moorehead, University of Virgin Islands St. Croix, said it’s important for Cadets to see the bigger possibilities in conquering the course.
“This course is testing out their confidence in themselves, their equipment, and each other, especially those that are scared of heights. They’re getting a chance to do things they never thought they’d be able to do before; zip lining, the walking bridge is very difficult because it’s so spaced out, even some crawls,” Moorehead said. “Through this whole course I want them to learn that no matter what they do in life, that everything is achievable. You can complete it, you just have to believe in yourself and attempt it. Don’t just look at it and say you can’t do it, realize you really can do it.”
(Left to Right) Cadet Johua Hoover, University of Iowa; Cadet Douglas Nguyen, Virginia Military Institute; Cadet Shawn Griffon, Central Texas A&M University stand together after accomplishing one of the climbing towers at the Forest Hills Climbing Complex on Fort Knox, Ky., Aug. 4. (Photo by Mattie Cook)
Walking through the course, an observer will see Cadets at great heights with unsure faces being coached and encouraged by their battle buddies and teammates below. Cadet Joshua Hoover, University of Iowa and Cadet Douglas Nguyen, Virginia Military Institute, served as belays for Cadet Shawn Griffon while he climbed one of the course’s towers.
“I went up and I didn’t know I was afraid of heights until less than half way up there and then I looked down and kind of froze up. I kept on just trying to push myself through it and kept on freezing up,” Griffon said. “It’s weird. You know you’re not going to fall. You know your battle buddies have you but it’s almost like your body takes control and you can’t help it. You just freeze up and you’re ‘just like man, I’m high’.”
Hoover said there are several responsibilities as a belay on the ground.
“All at the same time we’re making sure his descent and ascent are safe, we’re trying to guide him on what path he should choose and trying to encourage him at the because when he was freezing there up at the top we were trying to motivate him and make sure he was not just going to quit and come back down,” Hoover said. “He asked to come back down three or four times during the process of his climb but we made sure he stayed up there until he was all the way at the top.”
“It’s pretty much a trust exercise, like a really big trust fall almost; trusting in yourself, your equipment and your teammates,” Nguyen added.
Throughout Cadet Summer Training in the rain, mud, heat, hard times and fatigue, Cadets have leaned on one another for encouragement and motivation to get to
Cadets of 7th Regiment, Basic Camp climb one of the climbing towers at the Forest Hills Climbing Complex on Fort Knox, Ky., Aug. 4. (Photo by Mattie Cook)
the next day or the next event. Griffon was able to sum up just how much that means to a Cadet in need.
“Their encouragement is pretty much everything especially when you’re in my situation because I think multiple times I tried to tell them, ‘hey five point check I’m ready to come down’, even halfway there like ‘yeah I’ve had enough’. So just them telling me I could do it, and kind of picking at me at the same time a little bit, helps get your mind off of being so high up; even when I’m not as high as I think I am. Looking back now I wasn’t as high as I thought I was when I tried to quit and they encouraged me to keep going. Stuff like that is everything,” Griffon said. “When I was at the very top I felt amazing. It was awesome. Coming down to see those two were just as happy as I was that I made it is just an amazing feeling.”
Camaraderie is defined as mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together. These Cadets would argue it’s more than that. When one succeeds, they all succeed. When one fails, they all fail. Seeing each other succeed is almost like your own success; a true testament to the bonds formed at Cadet Summer Training.
“You come here not knowing anyone at first but then you build friendships. You build that trust within your teammates and your comrades and with that teamwork know you can accomplish whatever task,” Moorehead said. “It gives you that reassurance that someone is on your side as well. That’s something they can use going forward in their military career as well, that you always have some at your side to make sure you’re okay and make sure you’re going to get through it every step of the way together.”
Hoover and Nguyen echoed Moorehead’s comments from their experience as belays for Griffon.
“It just shows you that one of your battle buddies or comrades is going to have times where they’re going to struggle and you have to pick them up as a leader and you have to assist them to their goal, anyway you can, motivate them to complete the objective,” Nguyen said.
Hoover added: “Even if you doubt yourself, especially since were Basic Camp. Even if you doubt yourself in leadership positions as a leader you still have people behind you supporting you and backing you up so you just have to take a step back and follow those around you.”
Cadet Joseph Johnson, Virginia Military Institute, navigates the high ropes course on Aug. 4 at Fort Knox, Ky. Photo by Emily Peacock
Moorehead’s experience as an 2nd Regiment, Advanced Camp Cadet just days before becoming a trainer for 7th Regiment, Basic Camp helped him to understand what it means to lead soldiers.
“I’m so filled with joy, it really does feel good. During Advanced Camp I was working on being a leader, showing my skills on how I could be more vocal and interactive with my squad or platoon, and now I have a role where I can nurture them to be good model soldiers for their future soldiers and show them what it is to be vocal, be confident, take the initiative and take charge,” Moorehouse said. “It feels good to know I could teach them something, like ‘yes, helped this Cadet get started and I’m proud to see where they are today’. I’m really happy for the opportunity.”
In leaving Cadet Summer Training, he had just one piece of advice for future Cadets and their parents.
“For parents that want to know what it’s all about, it’s a great experience. Yes, they’re gone for 30 days, it’s going to be hot and raining but it’s a great experience to see what the military is all about and if they really want to be here. So, just give them all the encouraging support you can as a family and they will become successful,” Moorehead said.