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A Marine with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, forges a stream in Toiyabe National Forest at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., during practical application of the one-rope-bridge, Oct. 12, 2010.::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

River crossing skills essential in Afghanistan strategy

12 Oct 2010 | Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

Afghanistan’s rolling hills, and seasonal snowfall supply many rivers and streams throughout the country, many of which have no bridges to aid in crossing.

That’s why the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center has just the solution for service members deploying to the Middle Eastern country, who may encounter the wet obstructions more than frequently.

Marines and sailors with Special Operations Training Group, 2nd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment, learned to cross and navigate water obstacles during an Assault Climbers Course Oct. 12.

After a short class on one-rope-bridges, two teams of about 10 Marines made their way to a nearby stream to conduct the practical application of the bridges with a little twist – competition.

The teams raced to set up their one rope bridge and get their team across the quickest. However, under close instructor supervision, neither team took shortcuts.

A unit crossing a stream should set up security like they would crossing a road or any other danger area, said Cpl. Anthony Frank, an instructor at MWTC, during the debrief.

Communication was also stressed, attributing the majority of each team’s unorganized efforts to the well-known phrase, “Too many chiefs, not enough Indians.”

During the course students were taught to consider multiple things before crossing a river or stream.

“If there are rocks or a downed tree which make a natural bridge, a dry crossing would be best,” Frank said. “Next would be shallow or standing water, the shallower the better.”

Although both teams managed to stay dry during the practical application, they didn’t for long.

The Marines and sailors’ next crossing practical application involved little to no communication as they waded in groups of four in order to break the stream currents and keep from getting swept away.

Conveniently, the training was scheduled toward the end of the training day, so that service members could change into dry clothes shortly after. Keeping as dry as possible and having dry clothes available to change into is more a necessity than a luxury, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Shirley, a Corpsman with 2nd Bn., 5th Marines.

“On a day like today, warm, around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, many Marines don’t think of hypothermia as much of a threat, said Ganado, Ariz., “But with moisture clinging to their body and a breeze, that’s all it takes.”

After the training Capt. Thomas Irwin, reflected on the training and commented on the benefits that it provided for his Marines while deployed.

“From my experience in Afghanistan, wadis [dry riverbeds] are an important route of travel which often fill with water,” he added. “Knowing how to cross [rivers] allows us to maneuver around the battle space more efficiently which allows us to be more effective.”


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