Overcoming fears out of the comfort zone

Even though it had been over 10 years since the last time he abseiled, Leading Aircraftman Michael Portanger wasn’t worried.

CAPTION: Leading Aircraftwoman Jill Magno abseils down the side of the Campbell Park Offices in Canberra. Story by Corporal Michael Rogers.

But he was a little nervous when asked to let go of the line and rely on his belaying partner to keep him up.

“I had been the one belaying already so I knew what to expect, but it was still unnerving not to be able to control your descent,” he said.

Members from the Joint Data Network’s Military Operation Support Team and the Joint Signals Intelligence Unit developed trust and built team cohesion during an abseiling activity from the roof of the Campbell Park Offices in Canberra.

This activity was a further step in cementing the triservice personnel into a joint and cohesive team focused on joint force outcomes.

It also provided exposure to techniques and skills to help overcome fear and anxiety in challenges they might face.

The members progressed through three stages of complexity for the descents off the seven-storey building, beginning with an easy approach, followed by progressively more challenging iterations.

“It was good to get out of the office and do something different. In my job we don’t get to experience much adventurous training,” Leading Aircraftsman Portanger said.

When some members hesitated at the top, the activity leads helped them relax through coping mechanisms, and everyone made it over the edge.

Director of ADF Adventurous Training Colonel Stuart Davies said adventurous training is a tool to take people out of their comfort zone physically and mentally and is used to develop leadership, teamwork and resilience.

“The key outcome of the training is to expose participants to various coping mechanisms, such as breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to help overcome fear and anxieties and develop self-confidence and belief, and to overcome challenges as part of a team,” Colonel Davies said.

“If they weren’t abseiling down the rope they were undertaking a safety role as a rope brake person at the bottom.

“It builds confidence to work as a team and develop important communication skills when under pressure. It was great to see all participants approach the activity with such a positive attitude.”

The team finished off the two-part exercise by taking on a high ropes course at the Australian Federal Police Training Complex in Majura.

Campbell Park has been used for many years to conduct introductory abseiling activities without having to go out to a natural rockface or feature.

Adventurous training is one of a number of tools used in Defence to develop members so they can thrive in complex and uncertain situations.

CAPTION: Leading Aircraftsman Michael Portanger abseiling during a recent adventurous training activity in Canberra.


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