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Denver native 2nd Lt. Jeremy Dittmer, commander of 3rd Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, keeps up radio communications with his platoon during a security patrolling exercise Oct. 5, 2010, while training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

Marines, sailors train for Afghanistan’s mountains

5 Oct 2010 | Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

The air was thin as Marines and sailors with 3rd platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, made their way through the rolling hills of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Oct. 5, 2010, practicing the very security patrols that they are anticipating to use during their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan early next summer.

The Mountain Warrior Training course at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., a three-week course now nearing its end for the Marines and sailors, has challenged the unit with hard-hitting terrain and high altitudes while they conducted tactics in some of the region’s most adverse weather conditions.

Even with only days remaining, troops will tell you the learning isn’t quite over yet.

“It was pretty intense the first week, but when the cold came, just a few days ago it got much worse,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Diazrico, a team leader with the platoon who braved one of Bridgeport’s first snows of the season just days before.

“We were all wet, and that’s what did it,” said the Santa Maria, Calif., native.

Now relatively dry with only a light mist falling, the Marines and sailors practiced land navigation and security patrolling to a nearby objective, a mock Afghan village in Mill Creek Canyon.

But it wasn’t just about reaching their objective in the dense aspen and pine forest, it was about doing it tactically, said 2nd Lt. Jeremy Dittmer, 3rd platoon’s commander.

“We came within a close proximity to the objective and then circled around to the high ground to get a better view,” said the Denver native, pointing out the importance of using elevation differences to a unit’s tactical advantage.

“We are giving them the building blocks,” added Staff Sgt. Rob Turek, a Mountain Warfare Training instructor. “We give them all the different skills so that they can combine them to attack different situations.”

After securing the objective, Dittmer reviewed the platoon’s progress and highlighted areas needed improvement, such as communication.

The necessity of clear and constant communication is vital, he told his Marines. Especially when visibility is low, everyone reacting as a unit can mean life or death.

“For some the past three weeks has been the most difficult training that they have experienced,” Dittmer said. “But they all have repeatedly told me, that this is what they signed up for.”

With Afghanistan beckoning the Marines and sailors to its mountainous fronts, they won’t be showing up untried, Dittmer said. A mountain is a mountain no matter where it is, and the lessons learned at Bridgeport will soon serve as an experience manual of the do’s and don’ts of mountain warfare overseas.
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