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An instructor with the Instructor Qualification Course, shows students the proper method of placing anchoring hooks before scaling a rock face May 11, 2011.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Dietz

Marines prepare for climbing instruction

23 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Sarah Dietz

Instructing at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., is a billet many would describe as a “coveted” position in the Corps. They have the chance to hike, climb, swim and ski to their hearts’ content and teach other Marines to do the same, all while getting paid.

Becoming an instructor, however, is a difficult task. Multiple, grueling courses must be taken to reach a certification to teach others how to survive in the wild. This process may take a year to complete.

The Instructor Qualification Course takes instructors from the Unit Training Groups or Formal Schools aboard the Training Center and qualifies them to teach climbing.

The IQC is a shortened version of the Summer Mountain Leadership Course, reducing their training time from six weeks to 18 days. This cuts back on the field experience time to get the instructors qualified faster while still retaining the quality instruction and knowledge needed.

“They are coming through our course to be tested out and meet the standards,” said Sgt. Joshua Beal, an instructor for the IQC. “As leaders, they are learning an advisory role, so they can advise company commanders and leaders when found in a mountainous terrain. Every one of these guys will be able to do everything they advise about.”

The instructor students are not only in the course to meet a qualification, but to learn a very important, technical skill as well as to teach it in a combat situation.

“Where we fight, [the mountains] are everywhere, and all the possible conflicts in the future are all in mountainous terrain,” Beal said. “In the past, the mountains haven’t been our strong suit and with this skill you are overcoming the obstacle of the steep earth and the height, bringing the fight back to being even and we aren’t restricted by the terrain.”

The course, which ended May 19, provided the students with pre-environmental training, a variety of climbing techniques and multiple rope skills, like building rope bridges.

The students of the course enjoyed their time climbing and learning how to use tools to get them up the rock face.

“I volunteered for this,” said Staff Sgt. Norman Harrall, a student of the course, formerly with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. “I’ve never climbed before. This course is a good time and I am learning a lot of good stuff here.”

The course certified the students for rock climbing and the summer mountain leader portion. But, in order to be completely certified to teach the climbing winter mountain leader portion, students must take the second half of the course-glacier climbing later this year.


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