How Marine recruits battle their fear of heights on a 47-foot-tall tower at boot camp

  • We got an inside look at how United States Marine Corps recruits are trained to rappel down a 47-foot-tall tower.
  • Senior video correspondent Graham Flanagan spent five days at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, SC, where he observed various stages of training.
  • Recruits learn two different types of rappelling techniques: fast-roping and static rappel.
  • According to the depot, the training is designed to instill confidence, and introduce recruits to environments they may encounter while serving in the Corps.
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Following is a transcript of the video.Recruit: I’m slipping. Please! Please help! I don’t want to do this.Instructor: You’re fine. Recruit: No, I’m not. Please!Instructor: We’re trying to help you, son.Recruit: I don’t want to go down!Narrator: These Marine recruits are training on the rappel tower at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina. According to the depot, the rappel tower is a training event designed to instill confidence and introduce recruits to environments they may encounter while serving in the Corps. Rappel tower happens on day 25 of boot camp, a particularly busy day where recruits also train in the dreaded gas chamber.Instructor: Run!Narrator: Hundreds of recruits wait their turn to scale the stairs of Holberton Tower, which stands around 47 feet tall.Instructor: You’re gonna go from the front to the back.Narrator: First, instructors brief the recruits on their safety equipment, which consists of a helmet, gloves, and a safety harness. Recruits learn two different types of rappelling techniques, the first of which is known as fast-roping, where the recruit quickly descends using a thick rope.John Ovalle: As Marines, we use fast-roping techniques to get as many troops into the fight off of a helicopter as fast as possible.Narrator: The second technique is known as static rappel, where recruits utilise the tower’s wooden face to perform a controlled descent.Ovalle: For static rappel, you’ll utilise the rappelling on cliffsides to get into a building in the most expeditious manner.Instructor: Grab ahold of my right hand with your right hand. That is your brake hand. Put it on the lower centre of your back.Narrator: Recruits learn how to use their hands to perform different functions while rappelling. The left hand holds the rope in front and is known as the guide hand. The right hand is known as the brake hand.Instructor: Shoot your arm out and go down the tower!Recruit: Aye, aye, sir!Narrator: When the recruit is told to shoot out their brake hand, gravity quickly takes effect.Recruit: For me, the rappel tower was hard ’cause I sorta had a fear of heights. You have to trust the rope, and, I mean, all the gear here on the island is 100% safe, so there’s nothing to be worried about. You’ll be safe all the time.Narrator: Since safety is so important, the line can move slowly…Instructor: Series!Recruits: Aye, aye, sir!Narrator: Resulting in a long wait for recruits on the ground level.Instructor: Golf Company!Recruits: Aye, aye, sir!Instructor: Golf Company!Recruits: Aye, aye, sir!Narrator: But the drill instructors find ways to keep them occupied.Instructor: E-5!Recruits: Sir! E-5 in the Marine Corps is sergeant!Narrator: Including testing them on basic recruit knowledge.Instructor: Series!Recruit: This recruit, please help!Narrator: But for some recruits, the long wait creates anxiety.Recruit: I’m slipping! Please! Please help! I don’t want to do this.Instructor: You’re fine.Recruit: No, I’m not. Please! I don’t want to go down!Narrator: At Parris Island, fear is not an option. And those with a fear of heights have no choice but to conquer it.

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