Building Confidence in Recruits

One week before recruits go north to Camp Pendleton and begin rifle and field training, they execute a motivational exercise called Confidence Course II.
“It’s really a confidence booster,” said Staff Sgt. Roger Taylor, close combat instructor, Instructional Training Company. “Confidence Course II is where the recruits tackle all the high obstacles.”

The three high obstacles are the Confidence Climb, A-Frame and the Slide for Life, a trademark of recruit training. Along with these three obstacles, the recruits also take on four of the low obstacles for Confidence Course I, which they completed a week prior, according to Taylor.

The Confidence Climb is like a vertical railroad track into the sky. Logs spaced apart connect two poles, and ascend about 30 feet. The recruits must climb to the top, straddle over the top log, and descend the other side.

The A-Frame is the toughest obstacle for recruits to conquer, according to Taylor. Recruits must climb a rope and maneuver through three logs. Once through the logs, they walk about 20 feet over wooden beams to two A-shaped structures. Recruits must climb to the top, swing on to a rope and inch down to the ground.

The last obstacle the recruits overtake is the Slide for Life – three cables stretching off a tower, over a swimming pool and onto the ground. Recruits start by inching along a cable like a caterpillar. Once a recruit traverses a portion of the cable, a drill instructor orders him to hang by his hands and face the end of the pool. From there, the recruit kicks his legs up to catch the cable, and works his way to the end. Many recruits lose their grips and fall into the pool with a chilling splash.

“The pool is only about four feet deep,” said Taylor. “A lot of recruits can’t swim because we haven’t trained them yet, so when they fall in, we tell them to just put their feet down.”

Also for safety reasons, once a recruit falls in the water, he is done training.

“If a recruit falls in, we tell them to un-blouse their boots to let the water out, and then go back to the (barracks). This is to prevent the recruits from getting sick.”

Not all recruits fall in the water though. Under the higher portion of the cable is a safety net. The net is in place because the shallow water may not break a recruit’s fall from that high up, according to Taylor.

Safety is a priority in recruit training, and the confidence courses follow that idiom. ITC instructors give the drill instructors a safety brief before the course to point out emergency phones and give instructions on what to do in case of a recruit injury. The recruits also receive a safety brief and demonstration for each obstacle.

Drill instructors are equipped with whistles. A blast from the whistle stops all training and summons the company corpsman. The drill instructors also know and practice CPR.

Confidence Course II is a motivational tool, said Taylor. It also weans recruits’ acrophobia.

“Some recruits are terrified of heights,” said Taylor. “And sometimes, recruits don’t know they are scared of heights until they get up. But we encourage and motivate them to complete the obstacles, and once they do, it’s a great sense of accomplishment and they leave for Camp Pendleton ready to take on any challenge.”

And challenges do lie ahead up north. On the Crucible, recruits will face many of the same obstacles from Confidence Courses I and II, but on larger scales.