MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif.— --
Marines and sailors with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, learned the art of mountain climbing and its practical application in a tactical environment during the climbing phase of their assault climbers course at the Mountain Warfare Training Course Oct. 4-15.
Throughout the five-week course, students learned about mountain safety, the care of mountaineering equipment, mountain casualty evacuations, suspension and traversing, among other techniques useful for assault climbers.
The mountain climbing portion of the course taught Marines the basics of climbing and eventually progressed to the more advanced aspects, such as a conducting lead climbs.
“Ninety percent of the Marines here have never climbed before,” said Capt. Thomas Irwin, officer in charge, Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force. “[The course] takes the Marines from the bottom to the top,” said the Culver City, Calif., native, commenting on the evolving Marine’s skill levels.
Climbing teams scaled multiple rock faces during the phase, including one more than 150-feet-tall.
“During the course, the hardest part to overcome for me was my fear for heights,” said Cpl. Robert Blair an antitank missile man and team leader with 2nd Bn., 5th Marines.
“When I did, I was looking for my next thrill, that next chance to repel or climb.
“After you realize the systems are good, it gives you a lot more confidence in everything that you’re doing,” said the Dallas native.
Blair said throughout the course he was challenged mentally and physically and has a few recommendations for Marines and sailors considering the course.
“Study your knots. The hardest part of this course was the first week, while learning about the knots and systems. There are also a lot of things that you will do in this course you never expected doing in your life, you know? I am from Dallas; there aren’t too many places to go repelling around there.”
A tactical theme was present throughout the course, as Marines learned how to minimize the sound of their climbing harness and other swinging pieces of gear attached to it.
“For nighttime climbing, when we are trying to be more tactical, we don’t use voice commands. We use rope tugs,” said Sgt. Jay Richardson, an instructor with SOTG, I MEF. “One rope tug means ‘I’m off climb,’ two rope tugs means ‘I’m on belay,’ and three rope tugs symbolizes that ‘I’m about to start climbing.’”
Upon graduation, the assault climbers will return to their units, adding to the flexibility and capabilities of that unit, said the Orange County, Calif., native. Their new skills include being able to effectively move gear, as well as raise and lower casualties, he added.
“They are learning the skill set to move a company’s worth of Marines up the side of a cliff safely,” Richardson said.