INDIAN HEAD, MD -- It may be said that every man, woman and child carries with them some form of fear. Arguably, however, it is not every person who will face his or her fear, loosen its icy fingers from the psyche, and rise above and beyond the sometimes paralytic effects.
Ronald R. Seaver, a 22-year old corporal with CBIRF, literally works on his fear. With trusted and knowledgeable members of his unit, the crash fire rescue technician recently completed several days of training, dangling high above the ground.
Seaver first realized he would have to shoulder the weight of acrophobia after riding a rollercoaster as a sophomore in high school.
"It didn't take me long to realize I was scared as hell," said Seaver. "At first I thought it was how fast the rollercoaster was moving, but I love fast cars. That left one other factor...height."
Seaver would be greeted again by the nearly overwhelming fear in Marine Corps boot camp as he approached the top of the rappel tower, a fifty-foot leap into space.
"After I walked up the stairs it dawned on me that I really didn't want to go over the edge of the tower and I froze up," said the Hampton Beach, N.H., native. "The drill instructors then 'motivated' me to go. I closed my eyes and just went, but I was scared so I deathgripped the rope all the way down and burnt my hands."
Shortly after receiving the coveted Eagle, Globe and Anchor at the close of boot camp, Seaver's fear of heights began to take a turn for the better.
"The day my fear of heights began to break was after I joined the technical rescue platoon at CBIRF," Seaver recalled. "After I went over the edge of the rappel platform I burnt my hands just like I had in boot camp. The next time I was rappelling my mentors put me on a safety system called belay and told me to let go of the rope."
It was then that the transformation began to occur...
"After hanging there for awhile I started feeling like I could trust the safety system," related Seaver. "Once I knew I could trust the system and my training, I began to relax."
Seaver believes minor details can provide great strength when confronting fear.
"I just know I don't want to do it but then I go through a mental checklist to make sure I have everything I need to complete the rescue operation," Seaver explained. "I focus on the little things that matter, like making sure I have batteries in my flashlight."
Seaver also notes the need to stay mentally and physically focused in order to acccomplish the mission. Paying attention to the rope system itself makes him feel physically safer, and mentally running through how to handle and calm the victim allows Seaver to remain calmer himself.
In addition, Seaver wields two cutting edge Marine Corps principles to hold the dragon of fear at bay.
"To be technically and tactically proficient is what being a technical rescue Marine is all about," Seaver stated. "Rope rescue is only one of the disciplines we must master, but if you can't do this part of the job you are pretty much worthless as a rescue technician."
Seaver also firmly believes in the Marine Corps principle of setting the example.
"Now that I am a non commissioned officer, I must lead by example," said Seaver. "I simply can't tell someone to do something that I am not willing to do myself."
Ultimately, the need to rescue outweighs the fear of heights for the technician.
"When the situation arises I have to do down the rope and assist in the rescue or I would be letting everyone down," Seaver stated passionately. "Plus if you freeze at the moment of truth you are wasting valuable time that could be used to rescue the victim."
Perhaps experience is the greatest teacher, Seaver explains; it was, at least, a huge factor in rendering his fear powerless.
"I never would have thought I could do this but the training I have received with the CBIRF technical rescue platoon has made dealing with height second nature."
For Seaver, where there was once just fear, now there is fear and the balance.
"The more times you deal with the height the more comfortable you will get," he reflected. "But you don't want to get complacent especially dealing with rescue missions because then you have increased the chance of something bad happening. The key is to find the balence between comfortable and complacent."