Friday, March 14, 2014

[431] Going down? It’s the only way out from atop MTSU rappelling tower

MURFREESBORO — One of MTSU’s newest and tallest landmarks on the east side of campus recently experienced its first action.

And for the 50 MTSU Blue Raider Battalion members who climbed the stairs to the fourth level of the 52-foot high freestanding wooden rappelling tower, there was only one way out: straight down.

As in rappel down 44 feet — twice as high as the drop used to be from atop Forrest Hall, the home of the ROTC program and rappelling location used by cadets for decades.

“The exercise went very well,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joel M. Miller, the chair of the Department of Military Science on the MTSU campus, referring to the first lab and training event on the recently completed tower and following safety checks. “The cadets and students negotiated the tower.”

Miller added the cadets, especially the seniors, “continue their leader development through the planning, resourcing and executing of such events” as the March 6 exercise. He added the session was a lab that is part of the curriculum, but all training is not required.

A cantilevered top deck, which contains no footholds and only air below, allows cadets to simulate the experience of rappelling out of a helicopter. Exits on multiple levels of the tower will offer the experience of leaping from a window or doorway to the grass surface.

The tower was the vision of alumnus John Harris and other donors, whose gifts permitted MTSU to break ground on the all-wood structure near the softball fields. Harris, a member of the class of 1974, retired as a lieutenant colonel. His Army career included serving in Saudia Arabia and Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.

The Tennessee National Guard provided the manpower for the construction of a 10-foot security fence adjacent to the tower site. Asheville, N.C.-based Cornerstone Designs built the tower.

Military science is one of 10 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

To learn more about some of the history behind Blue Raider Battalion rappelling and how alumni banded together to provide funding for the structure, visit and click on the “Making the Leap” featured item.

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