MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif. --
Used in the Napoleonic wars, World War I and World War II, ski warfare has been an asset to any military fighting in high altitude, snowy regions.
Today, over 17 countries around the world still train with this effective technique and is include it in their combat readiness standards.
The Scout Skier Course has been recently reinstated at the Marine Corps MWTC Bridgeport after nearly five years.
Even though the majority of Afghanistan is not a snowy region, it is good to be ready for any type of environment, said Staff Sgt. Nathan Stutz, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Scout Skier Course.
The course begins with classes to familiarize the Marines with the skis they would use daily throughout the two-week course. Environmental training is provided as well, giving the skiers survival techniques and winter living tips.
With the knowledge needed, the Marines traverse the snow-covered mountains in their initial 3 km cross-country movement. Each night the Marines dig in the deep snow and set up a bivouac, practicing what they learned previously in their environmental survival training.
“I’ve learned a lot being out here,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas Anthony Kimball, a student in the Scout Skier Course. “I‘ve never skied before. I knew it was going to be hard so I asked my platoon sergeant if I could go. I like the challenge.”
Throughout the course, the Marines learn different ski techniques such as skijoring, which is being pulled behind something on skis to learn a faster way to move Marines, flat ground techniques and downhill ski techniques.
“Having Marines in a battalion with this knowledge is beneficial in a snowy combat environment,” said Major Urbano Cruz, the unit training group officer in charge. “It applies to mountain warfare combat operations,” he said. “Ski-born units move more efficiently through snow covered environments and provide overwatch on ridges and hilltops [which offers] security for larger maneuvering forces. It provides a capability for larger units to have smaller units that are ski-born.”
The last three days of the course are all hands-off for the instructors. The Marines must complete a biathlon, traveling on skis and completing missions given to them by instructors, while using live fire.
“This is an evaluation period for the instructors,” Stutz said. “We watch them to see if they retained the knowledge we gave them to complete their tasks.”
The two week course is not only packed with physical challenges and survival knowledge, but also instills leadership in the Marines.
When the Marines get back to their units, they will have to assist and teach their comrades what they learned if they ever find themselves in a snowy mountainous environment, Stutz said.
Although the fight in Afghanistan is far from snowy terrain, it is good for units to have knowledge the course has to offer in case the Marines get caught in extreme environmental conditions.
“Senior leadership in battalions now, went through this course in the past,” Cruz said. “From their past experience they know it is a good capability to have organic to the infantry battalion to conduct operations.”
MWTC places Marines in what seems like the most extreme conditions possible, teaching them how to live and work through whatever is thrown at them.
“If you can learn how to fight and win in this environment, you can learn how to fight and win in any environment,” Cruz said. “[Ski warfare] is a capability that units need to have up in the mountains if there is prevalence of snow.”