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Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

Confidence overcomes fear on Rappel Tower

By Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle | Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego | November 01, 2013

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Recruit D. A. Ballard (left) and Recruit B. D. Austin (right), Platoon 3243, Company L, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, rappel down the “hell hole” during the rappel tower aboard the depot, Oct. 18.  The rappel tower consists of a 15-foot fast rope rappel station, a 60-foot side wall rappel station, and a 60-foot center hole (hell hole) rappel station.

Recruit D. A. Ballard (left) and Recruit B. D. Austin (right), Platoon 3243, Company L, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, rappel down the “hell hole” during the rappel tower aboard the depot, Oct. 18. The rappel tower consists of a 15-foot fast rope rappel station, a 60-foot side wall rappel station, and a 60-foot center hole (hell hole) rappel station. (Photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)


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San Diego --

As Recruit Andres S. Kashani climbed up the stairs of the 60-foot rappel tower, he became plagued with uncertainty.  Staring at it for the past 10 weeks, his time had finally come to conquer not only the tower, but himself.

Recruits of Company L, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, built confidence in themselves by conquering the rappel tower aboard the depot, Oct. 18.

“The purpose of the rappel tower is to build confidence within the recruits,” said Sgt. Robert A. Wharton, drill instructor, Platoon 3241.  “There are recruits that haven’t been that high before so this is a big fear for some to overcome.”

Co. L recruits began the event by receiving a class from one of the Instructional Training Company instructors about the proper techniques to descend on the rope.  They were taught how to use their “strong hand” and “brake hand” to control themselves.

Sitting there staring at the tower, a recruit was already battling with the challenge about to face.

“I always like to be in control so this was difficult for me to face,” said Kashani, an Eagle Pass, Texas native.  “I imagined myself going up those first set of stairs and got real nervous, I was crippling myself before the event even began.”

First was the fast-rope.  Fast roping is a method used to quickly insert troops into an area by air.  For recruits, they would slide down a 15-foot rope while grabbing it tightly and wrapping their feet around.  Due to the short distance of the rope, once a recruit hits the ground he needed to quickly get out of the way as the next recruit was already coming down above them.

The last, and most challenging, part of the event was the 60-foot rappel descent. 

“This part is all about overcoming that fear of heights,” said Wharton, an Oakland, Calif. native.  “Recruits will say that they aren’t afraid but once they get up there you can see that they really are.”

For this rappel, recruits were taught how to tie a rappel seat with a rope.  The ITC instructor showed recruits the safety precautions.  He leaned off the edge of the platform without holding the rope, showing that recruits won’t fall from the top and hit the ground.  To further drive this point, drill instructors rappelled from the top and purposefully let go of the rope, entering a free-fall, but quickly came to a stop once the drill instructor at the bottom pulled the rope tight.

Recruits lined up, and one by one, ascended to the top of the tower.

“I tend to overthink things,” said Kashani.  “As I was climbing to the top I had uncertainty in myself.  It was really hard to focus, and while up there, became clumsy and forgot everything I was just taught.”

With each step up the tower, recruits were gaining confidence; a valuable asset required in their career in the Corps; confidence.

Once at the top recruits were put in one of two lines, the side-wall rappel or the center hole, which simulates the “hell hole” of a helicopter.  After facing their fears and rappelling down the tower, recruits began to realize what this training accomplished for them.

“It all led back to building confidence,” said Kashani.  “You don’t understand why you’re doing it, but you get it at the end.  We went in worried and unsure but left confident in our abilities.”

Co. L recruits left the rappel tower with a new outlook and attitude in regards to what they could accomplish.  They will need it as they head to the Crucible next; a 54-hour test of endurance in which recruits must conquer more than 30 different obstacles while they experience food and sleep deprivation. 

“Everything you do, you need to be confident,” said Wharton.  “This is a huge self-accomplishment for them.  If they can conquer this then they can conquer anything.”



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