Treadwell Tower is part of the first week during basic training for every soldier at Fort Sill. And, to no surprise, it is one of the major events during the one-week Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge (JCLC) this week.
About 120 students from ninth to 12th grade from 12 different high schools from Tulsa, Lawton, Oklahoma City, Wichita Falls, Texas and Lubbock, Texas, take part in the JCLC. Trainers from the 5th Brigade, supported by drill sergeants from the 434th Field Artillery Brigade, among others, help facilitate the training.
“We want to help them develop their confidence,” Camp Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Batts Jr. said. “They learn teamwork, communication, how to overcome their fears, and how to follow detailed instructions. Our mission is to motivate them and to make them become better citizens. We want them to become leaders and mentors at their schools.”
Treadwell Tower includes a smaller, 12-foot tall tower, and a bigger tower that is approximately 40 feet tall. After an initial briefing, the high school students received a demonstration at the individual towers on how to rappel down.
For Batts Jr., it is important that the cadets would see that the safety mechanisms, three in total, work. That would help build their confidence, especially since the high school students had to make their rappel seat themselves, out of a 16- to 18-inch long rappel rope.
Between every step, instructors would walk through the rows and make sure the rope was tight enough. Before the students eventually went onto the tower, the instructors conducted what they call a PCC, a pre-combat check. But finally, one cadet after another went up the tower and rappelled down, some with initial hesitations and even fear, some with confidence. But at the end, everybody made it back to the ground safely.
After the initial 12-foot tower, the students then went on to doing the same thing with the 40-foot tower, as well as climbing down the net of said tower, under the close watch of the instructors.
“In everything we do, safety is our priority,” Batts Jr. said.
During the one-week course, the high schoolers sleep on the Fort Sill Army post. Besides Treadwell Tower, the students will undergo a variety of other training courses designed to develop their confidence as well as their communication and critical thinking skills. One course is called TDC, the Team Development Course, that forces the high schoolers to move objects to a particular location, with obstacles in the way, by working with their peers. Another course consists of learning how to navigate new territory.
“I wanted to try it out and make new experiences,” Lawton High School student Kristal Gonzalecano, 15, said. For her, the rappelling was her favorite activity, followed by competition activities in the evening, such as volleyball.
Ashlie Overby, 16, student at MacArthur High School, enjoyed a variety of different things.
“I was excited to do it,” he said.
Overby enjoyed learning “how to map things with a — Meals Ready to Eat. Once he finishes high school, he wants to partake in the ROTC, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, he said.
For Sarah Johnson, 16, from Eisenhower High School, it was important to meet new people and find out what ideas they have. Within her group, she said, they changed leadership positions, so she was able to explore different types of leadership.