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A Marine with Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, negotiates a gorge at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center’s Leavitt Training Area Aug. 13, 2011, in Bridgeport, Calif. The Leavitt Training Area is where thousands of service members, both from U.S. services and allied militaries, have gained the skills to survive in the wild.

Photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson

Remote training area crucial for mountain warfare

2 Sep 2011 | Cpl. William J. Jackson

It’s dry. The air is thin. Training takes place anywhere from 6,700 feet to 11,000 feet above sea level. Its located 21 miles northwest of Bridgeport, Calif., at Pickel Meadow in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

It’s named the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, a 62-thousand acre training venue designed to train Marine Air Ground Task Force elements and individual units how to operate in high altitudes, mountainous terrain and cold environments.

One particularly brutal location, resting at more than 7,000 feet above sea level, is where Marines and sailors go to become masters in the basics of rock climbing, knot tying and even gorge crossing.

The Leavitt Training Area, more commonly referred to as LTA, is used for an array of mountain technical skills designed to provide service members with the confidence needed to perform in complex, compartmentalized terrain. The technical skills the individuals learn are essential to the commander for the completion of their unit’s assigned mission.

“This type of training is crucial for deploying units,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Gilliland, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mountain Warfare Formal Schools. “Whether a unit conducts a cliff assault or not, the training we provide in areas of technical rope installations has an array of critical usefulness in gorge crossings, and one-rope bridges”

The Marines and sailors of Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, covered three main exercises at the LTA.

“Today we’re learning to top-rope and belay,” said Cpl. Leroy Gomez, a squad leader with Co. B, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, and participant in Mountain Exercise 7-11. “We learned night climbing, stream crossing and gorge crossing, too.”

Gomez, who was an avid climber back home in Denver, says it’s all about trust and confidence in the Marines’ belaying abilities and the equipment provided for the climb.

Company B, 1/7, will utilize the mountain training during their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

“LTA allows students to see the big picture and hopefully understand it by seeing it work in the environment it is intended for,” said Gilliland. “We also want them to learn and understand the basics of rock climbing, and LTA provides a basic platform.”

“It’s good training,” said Cpl. David Sumner, a squad leader with Company B, 1/7, after crossing a seven-story gorge. “[The training] puts us out of our element.”

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