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2nd Lt. Jordan Alley, a platoon commander with Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, hangs onto the rock face near the end of his 40-foot-tall top-roping exercise during the Mountain Leaders Course at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., Aug. 10, 2011.

Photo by Cpl. William Jackson

1/4 Marines ready for mountain ops

2 Sep 2011 | Cpl. William Jackson

“Climb!” The commands came from a Mountain Leaders Course instructor while a motley crew of servicemembers negotiated a 40-foot rock face during an MLC training event at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Aug. 10, 2011.

The MLC course breaks up the classes for knot tying, commands and techniques into four days, gradually teaching service members to successfully manage a climb on their own.

“They go from knowing absolutely nothing, and in four days they're lead climbing,” said Sgt. Joshua Beal, an MLC instructor. “That’s pretty huge.”

Before students even begin their ascents, they have to begin with the basics.

“There’s a total of 14 out of 30 testable knots that we do blindfolded,” said 2nd Lt. Jordan Alley, a platoon commander with Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. “Everything we do out here has something to do with knots.”

“The biggest piece of information [MLC instructors] want students to take away from training is how to incorporate various rope installations in this type of environment and understand just how each rope installation works,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Gilliland, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Mountain Warfare Formal Schools. “It’s fundamentals, and it’s mechanics.”

Most MLC students learned how to use carabiners, cams, nuts and climbing rope for the first time.

“It’s about trusting the equipment, mainly the rope,” said Beal. “The biggest advice I’d say is climb with your feet. You can’t pull-up your way to the top, you’ll get worn out,” said the Central City, Neb., native.

Typically the training is designated for service members to utilize while deployed in a combat zone, but for Alley, this training is very personal, too.

“I’m actually getting ready to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October,” he said. “All the hiking and running around in the high altitude helps.”

More importantly, Alley said he hopes to bring the knowledge back to 1/4 for their upcoming deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit later this year. His hopes are if they need to traverse any mountainous areas, he and his Marines will be ready.

“You learn [climbing] by doing it,” said Alley. “It’s just another tool in the tool box for me.”


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