For the first couple of days of Cadet Summer Training, Cadets spend most of their time taking care of paperwork, getting to know each other and preparing for the challenging days ahead. 

Cadet Laura Cruz, Penn State University, receives instructions from Cadre on the proper belaying techniques during the Rappel Tower training event at Fort Knox, Ky., on July 10, 2021. The purpose of the belayer is to stop a rappeler from falling and assist them to regain their posture. | Photo by Oscar Fuentes, Cadet Summer Training Public Affairs office.

These initial events build their teamwork and morale, and teach them how to lead and follow. The Rappel Tower and Confidence Course is the first, but definitely not the last, event that tests all of this. 

Rappelling is an event that requires a two person team: a Rappeller and a Belayer. The Rappeller is the person who descends and is in full control of the ropes while the Belayer is in charge to create friction in the rope by tightening it in case the Rappeller loses control and falls.

Like all exercises at Cadet Summer Training, the event started with a mandatory safety brief and demonstration from Cadre. Here, Cadets had the opportunity to see just how safe and controlled the training environment really was, but even with all of the safety precautions and reassurances from Cadre, the imposing 64-foot-tall tower haunted the Cadets in the background.

The first great challenge of Cadet Summer Training, the Rappel Tower is nightmare fuel for Cadets. Raising 64 feet above the ground, the imposing tower made even the toughest of them second-guess themselves at least once, but for others, like Cadet Ben Luebbers, University of Wyoming, the day of the event couldn’t come fast enough, “I been looking forward to this day since day one.” 

After their brief, Cadets received a lesson in the proper procedures to tie a rappel seat and even had the opportunity to practice on a slanted wall after the Rappel Masters on site conducted multiple safety checks on their gear.

Once Cadets felt confident in their rappelling technique and belaying procedures, they receive one more safety check on their gear and begin their climb of the tower. At the top of it, Cadets receive final instructions and have a few minutes to find courage to begin the descent.    

For Cadets like Casey Petersen, Campbell University, taking the first step required a little extra courage; courage that in her case, was provided by her Platoon. “I was definitely nervous because it was my first time… but it was nice to have my entire platoon cheering me on. I could hear them in the background.”

Casey Petersen, a Cadet from Campbell University, receives instructions from Cadre prior to completing her third and final descend of the Rappel Tower training event at Fort Knox, Ky., on July 10, 2021. | Photo by Oscar Fuentes, Cadet Summer Training Public Affairs office.

Besides receiving motivation from their battle buddies, Cadets also got coached by Cadre prior to beginning their descent. “The Cadre who [was] helping me get down he was like ‘you gotta do this to commission,’ the second he said that I let go,” said Sarah Schwier, a Cadet from Stetson University.

While tears were shed, at the end of the day all Cadets completed their rappels and moved on to conquer the Confidence Course. Here, Cadets had a more relaxed but equally challenging experience.

“I thought it was a great chance to get some team building and cheer on the kids that struggle with it and be competitive and race with the kids that were good at it. I think we had a lot of fun as a team,” said Luebbers.