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Fort Drum soldiers train on mobile tower, held for first time on Army post (VIDEO)

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FORT DRUM — Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion took their training to a higher level Wednesday, scaling up and down a 180-foot communication tower to practice maneuvering on them safely.

The division’s soldiers were the first ever to do the mobile tower training course, typically an Air Force specialty, on an Army installation. In the past, work at communication towers may have been done for the Army by civilian or Air Force personnel. The goal is to allow soldiers to do the work themselves.

“When it comes to proper installation of actual cable antenna systems on a tower, they need to know how to properly get up that tower,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Penn of the 364th Training Squadron, one of the instructors.

Trainers from Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas, came to post to teach the condensed class.

During a morning session opened to local media, a group of about 10 soldiers, primarily cable system installers, could be seen rescuing a fellow soldier who was hanging from the tower about 50 feet off the ground.

Pvt. Kenaz L. Russell lowered himself down to Spc. Michael J. Lawlar as an instructor, Staff Sgt. Charles D. Hawthorne, looked on. Securing Spc. Lawlar in his harness, Pvt. Russell slowly worked his way down, getting the pair to the ground safely and preparing first aid.

On the ground, the two admitted some nerves about how far from the ground they were on the tower.

“When I got up there, it’s way different than being on the ground,” Pvt. Russell said. He said that turning the climb into a game helped calm him.

One part of the training is getting soldiers over any fear of heights.

Sgt. Penn said an early portion of the class includes climbing to 30 to 40 feet, to gauge soldiers’ reaction and climbing ability.

“They’ve got to have nerves of steel,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey M. Schroeder, division chief information officer.

The training comes as the division headquarters plans for a potential deployment in 2014, though it has not been formally announced by the Department of Defense.

Col. Schroeder said one part of the unit’s mission, as American forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, will be relocating communication structures, making this week’s training important for the potential work ahead.

In addition to picking up new skills, graduates of the class will earn two college credits for their effort.

Video from Wednesday’s training can be found at http://wdt.me/eWEeZF.

Fort Drum mobile tower training course
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