MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif. --
Marines from all over the Corps came to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center for six weeks, from Jan. 10 to Feb. 18, 2011, to complete the Winter Mountain Leadership Course.
The course focuses on mountain and cold weather survival, snow mobility and how to effectively accomplish missions while utilizing only issued gear in a mountainous cold environment.
During the six-week course, Marines are taught to patrol on skis, build survival shelters and are tested on their skills to independently apply the techniques taught to them. The Marines are put through a week of pre-environmental training, where they learn to live in the rough, mountainous terrain and what tools to use.
The Marines are then taught to ski during a week-long course in Mammoth, Calif.
The instructors then step back and observe the students during a two-week saturation period, where they must apply everything they learned to survive in the wild.
The Marines traveled nearly everywhere on skis, and for Staff Sgt. James Hayes, a student of the course and training to be an instructor at the center, skiing was a new concept.
“I didn’t know how to ski before I came here,” Hayes said. “It’s been a really good experience, I’ve learned how to move and adapt to the cold weather.”
The course, while training in survival techniques, is also geared toward unit leadership, said Staff Sgt. Jack Roe, an MLC instructor.
“This course provides units an asset of advisors to units, should the Marines ever find themselves in this sort of climate,” he said.
“My unit comes up to train here five days after we graduate,” added Staff Sergeant Anson Agooshboy, a platoon sergeant with Battery T, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. “I’ve learned a lot of information I can pass down to my Marines so they can adapt to this environment. I am really excited to give it all back to them.”
The end of the course consists of a four-day practical application period where the Marines are given missions to complete. Instructors observe, but are hands-off, forcing the students to work together and apply everything they had learned.
“This is not an easy course,” Roe said. “It’s hard and people can lose 10-to-15 pounds up here.
“It’s definitely worth it, and is valuable information and experience if ever found in this environment,” he said.