Marines Build Confidence

Pvt. Michael Johnson finishes the Slide for Life. After scaling across the first 12-feet of the cables, Marines are told to hang by their hands, face the end of the pool, lift their legs up and around the cable, and to slide across the remainder of the rope.

As his bus arrived on the depot, the first thing he saw through the windows was the confidence course.

“The Marine Corps is known for its difficult training and challenging obstacle courses, so I knew that I would have to complete it eventually,” said Pvt. Michael Johnson, Platoon 2132, Company F.

One week before traveling north to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for the rifle range and field training, the Marines with Company F tackled Confidence Course II.

With his peers watching, Pvt. Mahomad Luckett leaps to the final log on the Dirty Name obstacle. Marines are told to ensure their hips hit the log as they pull themselves up in order to successfully make it over the obstacle.

Completing the course develops confidence in their abilities and make them face fears they are forced to overcome, said Staff Sgt. David Lopez, senior drill instructor, Platoon 2132.

Company F Marines were faced with three high obstacles during Confidence Course II: the Confidence Climb, A-Frame and the Slide for Life. They also took on the lower obstacles that they are already conquered in Confidence Course I, a week prior.

Wet boots dry after the Marine wearing them fell into the pool during the Slide for Life.

The Confidence Climb is a log ladder that ascends 30-feet into the sky. Marines climb to the top, swing over to the other side, and then climb back to the ground.

The A-Frame begins with a rope the Marines from Company F had to climb to reach the first level. Once there, they walked 20-feet across a series of logs to an A-shaped structure. They climbed to the top of it and then descended to the ground while swinging on a rope.

“I had the most difficulty scaling with the ropes, but once I learned the technique of using my feet as brakes to pull myself up, instead of my arms, it was simple,” said Johnson, a Riverside, Calif., native.

The Slide for Life was the final obstacle. It is composed of three cables angled over a pool of water from a 25-foot tower to the ground. Marines lay down on the cables and pull themselves across 12-feet of the length of the cable. Their drill instructors then ordered them to hang by their hands, face the end of the pool, lift their legs up and around the cable and then slide across the remainder of the rope.

“Those who have a weak mid-section usually have difficulties kicking their legs up to catch the cable,” said Lopez, a Houston native. “If they fall during the first 12-feet, netting will catch them and they are ordered to roll off into the water. Otherwise, they fall directly into the water.”

If they fall into the water they are done with training and are sent back to their squad bay to change clothes, said Lopez.

Company F Marines scale the Stairway to Heaven. To overcome the obstacle, Marines must climb to the top log, roll over to the other side, and then climb back to the ground.

Johnson said that one of his biggest fears was falling into the water in front of his platoon because his goal was to complete every obstacle successfully.

“A senior drill instructor is positioned at every high obstacle to ensure that it is being executed properly and to give positive motivation,” said Lopez. “Some of the recruits have a fear of heights; but if one freezes on an obstacle, we give every effort to slowly talk him through it.”

Pvt. James Forrestieri, left, and Pvt. Kevin Martin swing over a trench.

Company F Marines may encounter the confidence course again while in the Fleet Marine Force during Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training.

“When I leave the depot and drive by the confidence course, I will see it not as a challenge, but as conquered territory. I believe that I am now prepared to overcome any obstacles in my way,” said Johnson.

Pvt. Daniel Nusse pulls himself over the final log on the Dirty Name. During this obstacle, Marines must jump from a five-foot high log to a nine-foot high log and then drop safely to the ground.