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Leading from the Top: Cadets don’t let heights slow them down

U.S. Army photo by Heather Cortright

U.S. Army photo by Heather Cortright

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet Abigail Raines, Alpha Co., 6th Regiment, from Monroe, Ga., and a psychology student at Georgia Southern University, slipped into the back of the line behind the rest of her squad.

“I really don’t like it, but I’ve got to do it,” said Raines, her eyes darting to the looming structure in front of her. “I want to be a leader, so I’ve got to do it.”

On July 2, Raines and the rest of 6th Regiment had to complete the Confidence Course, in which they sometimes climbed towering structures. For some Cadets, it was just another physically draining training site. But for Cadets like Raines, who are scared of heights, it was a constant mental battle.

“I can be a leader, that’s not an issue,” she said. “It’s the heights that’s the problem.”

As the name implies, the Leader Development and Assessment Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. commits itself to molding bold and effective Army officers. This drives Raines, who said she doesn’t want momentary fear to ruin her career in the Army. For a pep talk, she tells herself she doesn’t want to be the only person who doesn’t do it.

“If you think about it as a team effort, you don’t want to hold your team back,” she said.

Cadet Will Clark, Alpha Co., 6th Regiment, from Jackson, Tenn., and a history student at University of Tennessee at Martin, is also wary of heights. Clark wants to be a chaplain, so he said he prays when his fear grips him.

“It’s a sense of assurance that you’re going to be okay, but the fear never goes,”  said Clark.

To be in a leadership position, Clark said he would have to lead from the top. Sometimes literally.

“It’s just something that if you want it bad enough, you work to get it,” he said.

When Raines’ turn came to complete the approximately 30-foot structure, her face reddened and she wheezed as she slowly put one foot then one hand a step higher. She sat on the platform at the top for several minutes before gingerly climbing onto the rope upside down.

Even though her intense fear and a weakened grip resulted in her failure to make it down the last few feet of rope, her fellow Cadets never stopped encouraging her.

Cadet Liz Rozell, Alpha Co., 6th Regiment, from Aberdeen, S.D., and a nursing student at South Dakota State University, is not afraid of heights, but made her voice heard to Raines over the rest of the squad.

“The most important thing is to know what kind of person they are and what motivates them so they trust you,” said Rozell.

Despite her hang-up with heights, Raines said she knows she has to do the obstacles in order to be an effective leader and psychologist. But one encounter with extreme fear, she said, is probably enough.

“After LDAC, unless someone forces me, I’ll probably never do this again,” said Raines.

Story by Monica Spees.

 

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