ROTC cadets spend weekend at Camp Williams

Lacy Fawson hung 40 feet off the ground, suspended by a piece of rope and a single carabiner. She began to fall.

A few feet short of hitting the ground, her right hand jerked around to the small of her back, and the friction slowed her descent.

Fawson, along with the rest of her fellow Army ROTC cadets, spent Halloween weekend at Camp Williams to practice rappelling, rifle-shooting, land navigation and problem-solving skills.

Fawson said sliding 40 feet down a rope didn’t scare her.

“It’s freaking awesome,” she said, adding that she loved “the freedom of falling down.”

However, she did concede that the first moments before the descent could be intimidating.

“It’s kind of scary when you’re sitting…there looking up,” she said.

Fellow cadet Ben Taylor said he was nervous when he first stepped over the edge of the platform.

“That’s the first second you have to trust the rope,” he said.

Taylor rockclimbs in his spare time, so he is accustomed to trusting ropes. However, Saturday’s rappelling training presented a unique challenge: The cadets could not use a traditional harness. Instead, using about 5 feet of rope, they made their own harnesses, called Swiss seats.

“Different loops, different ties, different knots make this [the Swiss seat] possible,” said Sarah Islas, a senior cadet.

“That’s dang useful training,” Taylor said.

Islas said a rope makes a better harness than a rock climber’s because rope is easier to find and to carry.

“It’s not the equipment rock climbers use,” she said. “It’s not as comfortable, but a lot more efficient.”

“[It’s] more comfortable than a parachute harness,” said cadet Cody Wheaton.

Each of the cadets had to walk down an inclined wall, and then bound down a vertical wall.

After completing the vertical wall, six cadets took on the “skid side,” a free line that is used to simulate dropping out of a helicopter.

Cadet Chad Bactus said he liked the rappelling training because “it allows us to conquer our fears.”

Islas said the training does more than help cadets conquer fears; it also directly applies to the military career each cadet will eventually have.

Islas said the rappelling training would be used to jump out of helicopters, or to travel down ravines or across rivers. Later on, the cadets will learn how to lower a dummy down the 40-foot wall, so they would know how to transport a wounded comrade down a cliff.

She added that all of the cadets might be using this training very soon. After they graduate from the U and the ROTC program, every cadet will most likely serve somewhere in the Middle East.

About half of the cadets in the ROTC have had prior service, she said. Fawson is one of those cadets. She spent four months in Afghanistan as a medical volunteer before attending school this fall.

“We’re all going to end up over there [the Middle East] sooner or later,” Islas said.

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