FORT KNOX, Ky., – Cadets from 2nd Regiment, Advanced Camp, knew that once they climbed up the stairs of the 64-foot rappel tower in Fort Knox, Ky., June 18, 2023, there was no turning back. The only way a Cadet can get off the tower is by rappelling.

At Advanced Camp, having a fear of heights is not an option because every Cadet is required to rappel down the tower during training. However, the safety instructors and Cadre members on site were ready to support every Cadet that descended the tower.

Rappel safety instructor Terry Bras from the University of South Carolina supports Cadets at they practice rappelling down the slant tower at Fort Knox, Ky., June 18, 2023. Bras is in charge of making sure the Cadets follow proper safety techniques during training. | Photo by Kate Koennecke, Ohio State University, CST Public Affairs Office

Rappel safety instructor Terry Bras from the University of South Carolina ensures that the Cadets rappel correctly down the slant tower, or the practice tower, before heading over to the 64-foot tower. Bras explained how he tries to help Cadets get over their fear of heights.

“We try to motivate them to not be moved by fear, ‘FEAR’ stands for false evidence appearing real, so a lot of times they just need to get to that point where they trust us,” Bras said. “I would try to motivate them by telling them to just take small steps, just get started, go little by little until you get down the wall.”

For incoming Cadets that are afraid of heights, the key to completing rappel tower training is having faith in the process. Cadet Shaunna George from the University of Mississippi said that although she had completed rappel training prior to Advanced Camp, she almost started crying as she stood at the top of the tower. Even though she was afraid, her instructors assured her that everything was going to be okay.

Cadet Shaunna George from the University of Mississippi descends down the open side of the 64-foot rappel tower at Fort Knox, Ky., June 18, 2023. George said her instructors gave her the encouragement she needed to get through rappel training. | Photo by Kate Koennecke, Ohio State University, CST Public Affairs Office

“I had my belayer and all my instructors supporting my role, so basically just knowing that I was safe and having that reassurance from them and my belayer allowed me to go down the tower,” George said.

George was not the only Cadet who would almost shed a tear during the rappel training. Cadet Regan Hutto from the Georgia Institute of Technology said that she ‘cried like a baby’ while she was getting ready to rappel down the tower, but she knew that the only way to conquer her fear was to trust herself and her equipment.   

“I convinced myself that no matter how stupid I looked going down the tower that I would have been more embarrassed to go down the tower using the stairs,” Hutto said. “It’s okay to be scared; it’s okay to feel stupid standing there like you’re the only one that’s scared to go down, that’s fine. What matters is what you do after and how you handle the fear.”

About the Author: Kate Koennecke
Kate Koennecke
Kate Koennecke is a rising junior at The Ohio State University double-majoring in Political Science and Strategic Communications. This summer, Koennecke will be working as a Public Affairs Intern, covering events throughout Cadet Summer Training this summer as a Photojournalist. Koennecke has had many experiences working in the public sphere, including interning for the Ohio Statehouse for the Ohio Democratic Caucus in the Senate in the fall of 2022. Once this summer comes to an end, Koennecke hopes to take back her knowledge of Public Affairs back to the Buckeye state with her.