One of the things you will be expected to do on the PRMC is the “Confidence Test” on the high obs course. This isn’t the Tarzan course and in truth it isn’t difficult, but it does require you to show confidence moving swiftly at height on planks of wood. During your career in the Marines, should you make it that far, you may be required to work at heights; whether that be during cliff assaults when climbing and/or abseiling, in aircraft/helicopters, travelling, fast roping or parachuting or anything else the life may ask of you. Equalling, during Royal Marines training you will be required to become very good at climbing 30foot ropes when fatigued and tired as well as negotiating the Tarzan course to enable you to pass one of the Commando tests. All of these things mean that anyone joining the Corps is completely happy working at height.
If you are reading this and feel a little worried about the working at height then I suggest you do something about it. If you know you have a fear of heights, great, then at least you know you have to do something. Better to realise it before getting to Lympstone so you can sort it out than to arrive, be queuing up for the High Obs Course, bottle it and have the embarrassment of being unable or even slow and scared to do it. “Know Thyself” is something I’ve written about in each one of my books. If you know your own strengths and weaknesses you can play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses, or even better: overcome your weaknesses. Being afraid of heights is actually quite common and quite normal. As human beings, anything that could potentially kill us we have learned to be innately scared of as a self-preservation method. If you are scared of heights, don’t hide it, just work on it.
I would suggest there are three things you could do that will probably give you the confidence you need to get over or at least deal with your fear.
1. Climbing wall
Go to a climbing wall and ask for an instructor to belay you. Climb up as high as you feel comfortable and get them to lower you down. Then try to successively go higher and higher. If they have an abseil platform, it would pay dividends for them to let you lower yourself via those means as well.
2. Go Ape
Find a Go Ape or another version of that kind of thing. These are usually used by team building groups or stag parties etc. They are similar to a high obs course or the Tarzan course in some areas. Go with some friends or family members and just try to do you best. If you get stuck/scared, ask for an instructor to coach you through it.
I wouldn’t say this was the first port of call as it will be expensive, but it can work. An ex Marine PTI has set something like this up called the Fear Master. He was an ATI PTI (adventure training instructor – taking Marines and recruits climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing etc). His business is all about helping people overcome fears. Although I think this should be the 3rd option, if you really have a fear of heights and cannot climb or Go Ape through fear, this may be the answer.
What I don’t want anyone to do is ignore their fear. A man owns up to his shortcomings and faces them. It’s weak to hide them and hope they go away. They won’t and you’ll end up coming face to face with them at the worst moment. Although you may feel like the pressure of CTCRM and being on your PRMC will force you to overcome your fear and just get on with the High Obs course, what if it doesn’t? That could be the end of your RM experience. Better to join a Go Ape group and put yourself under pressure in front of a load of people there. If you do it, great. No problem; PRMC here we come. If you have a wobble, great; no consequences, but trained staff to help you out. It’s that simple. Just face up to it.