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National Guard officer candidates tackle rappelling, rope bridges at FLW
National Guard officer candidates tackle rappelling, rope bridges at FLW

Officer Candidate Travis Trudgeon, of the 1107th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group in Springfield, slides across a rope during Officer Candidate School training at Fort Leonard Wood. Trudgeon is a 1999 graduate of Lebanon High School.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (April 20, 2009) — More than 20 Missouri National Guardsmen took on rope bridges and rappelling at a warrior tower, as well as a physical training test, during their second drill weekend in a grueling 18-month program where they’ll have to demonstrate they have what it takes to become an officer.

The soldiers are part of the Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute Officer Candidate Class 48 and will train at least one weekend a month, most of that on post.

In the early stages of the program, soldiers are pushed mentally and physically to determine if they possess the abilities and skills to be officers.

“The program is difficult because the mission of an officer in the military is very difficult,” said Maj. McDonald Brand, the school’s company commander. “The end result is you may have to take one of my two boys into combat in the future and I have to make sure you are the type of officer who can bring them home and make the decisions to keep them alive.”

Many soldiers, Brand says, come in thinking about the rank and pay, but don’t yet realize the amount of dedication and responsibility that goes into being an officer.

Brand said there is much the instructors look for in an officer.

“We want someone who is intelligent, creative, physically fit, and has a sense of mind to be able to take care of their soldiers and accomplish their mission,” he said.

For Officer Candidate Heather Adams of the 3-135th Aviation Regiment in Lebanon, working through the rappelling and the rope bridges was a good team-building exercise.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Adams, from St. Louis. “With the bridges that we did, it definitely looks a lot easier than what it is. You don’t realize how hard it is to maintain balance.

“This is the first time I’ve seen everybody in the class cheering each other on, so it definitely builds team cohesion,” she said.

Officer Candidates Travis Trudgeon, of the 1107th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group of Springfield, and Christopher Carpenter, who plans to transfer from the Army Reserve to the National Guard’s new 1-138th Infantry Regiment in Kansas City, said they too saw the exercise as a bond builder among classmates.

“We’re getting paid to play games right now and after a PT test and another long morning of more PT, it’s a great opportunity to support each other, relax and have fun,” said Trudgeon, who lives in Lebanon.

“I’ve gone rappelling before and I enjoy it,” he said.

Carpenter, who lives in Burlington Junction, agreed.

“It’s a good team builder and a good confidence builder,” Carpenter said. “It’s one of those things that teaches you that most of the apprehension you have about OCS is in your head and if you can get yourself past that, then there is really nothing that you can’t do.”

Candidates had to negotiate a two-rope and three-rope bridge, as well as slide across a single rope. Trudgeon found the two-rope bridge to be the most challenging.

“Balance is everything there,” he said. “It was just physically demanding.”

Carpenter said the rappelling was mostly a welcome refresher for him.

“I’ve got some experience with this, but every time you do that stuff it reminds you that confidence all comes from within,” he said.

For Officer Candidate Calvina Cook of the 135th Rear Operation Center in St. Louis, the exercise required her to conquer her fear of heights.

“I ride roller coasters all the time and I didn’t think I was going to be as scared, but this was pretty scary,” Cook said. “I did overcome my fear by completing the obstacles.”

Cook said the message she took from the exercise was that she is capable of rising above any obstacle in her path.

“I am confident,” said Cook, who lives in St. Louis. “I feel good that I was able to do it. It gives me more confidence for the next time around.”

Most of the officer candidates improved upon their previous physical training test, which recorded the number of push-ups and sit-ups they could do in two minutes, as well as their time on a two-mile run.

“I did well with the PT test,” Cook said. “I maxed my push-ups and my sit-ups, I did more this time.”

Several candidates agreed that the biggest area they needed to improve upon was their run time.

“I’m not a runner,” Cook admitted, “but I never failed a run.”

Trudgeon, who had the best run time in the class, wasn’t satisfied with his time, either.

“I’d like to shave like about 25 or 30 seconds off of it so I can max out my score,” Trudgeon said.

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