Staff Sgt. Joel Pena
10th Mountain Division Journalist
To ensure communication systems are operational and in order, Soldiers are required to safely climb up and down towers and repair equipment. Eight Soldiers from Division Signal Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (LI), earned their Tower Climbing Course certifications during a ceremony held Friday at the HHBN classroom.
The class, an Air Force Education Technical Training Course, consists of 14 blocks of instruction that took place Sept. 16-20. Completion of the course awards Soldiers of the signal military occupational specialty with the J-2 tower-climbing identifier.
“This course has never been taught (at) an Army installation before,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Penn, 3-64th Training Squadron, Sheppard Air Force Base at Wichita Falls, Texas. “Here at Fort Drum, we’ve shortened the course to a Mobile Training Tower Course.”
Soldiers scaled up and down a 180-foot communications tower while practicing safe maneuvering and rescuing role-players serving as injured tower climbers.
“When it comes to proper installation of actual cable antenna systems on a tower, Soldiers need to know how to do it properly and safely,” Penn said. “We teach them this and also how to use proper rescue procedures.”
“We teach the descending suspension technique,” he added. “This is where you’re actually on the rappel rope and have your actual victim suspended from you.”
As part of the training, instructors administrated a fear-of-heights test where they picked a predetermined height – usually between 30- to 40-feet high – and after installing and inspecting the equipment, students are required to climb the tower.
“The students who climb skillfully up and back down without fear, we assume the fear is gone,” Penn added.
One Soldier who demonstrated no fear was Staff Sgt. Aaron Cianfrocco, who completed the course the week before.
“This week, I’m helping the primary instructors, Staff Sgt. Penn and Staff Sgt. Charles D. Hawthorne, both from the 3-64th Training Squadron,” he said. “When the time comes, I’ll be re-certifying our Soldiers.”
“It is an outstanding course,” Cianfrocco added. “It’s very safe and job-oriented when it comes to being a 25L cable systems installer.”
Spc. Neil Perez also demonstrated confidence during the test.
“This training has widened my horizons as far as communications and signal operations,” Perez said. “You never know when we will have to climb a tower to repair an antenna or any communications equipment, whether in combat or here in garrison.”
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Schroder, 10th Mountain Division (LI) G-6 chief information officer, said he understands the importance of the course.
“Part of our unit’s mission as American Soldiers prepare to drawdown in Afghanistan will be to relocate some of the communications structure, which makes this week’s training crucial for our success,” Schroder said.
Moving communications equipment will require Soldiers to operate at higher elevations.
They must be skilled in not only ascending, but also operating on equipment safely and proficiently for long periods of time, Schroder added.
“It takes nerves of steel,” Schroder said. “In all honesty, they also have to have intestinal fortitude to have the confidence not only in themselves but in their peers and equipment.”
In addition to picking up new skills, graduates of the class will earn two college credits for their effort.