MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Bridgeport --
Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., is the only training center that provides high altitude cold-weather training for Marines. Knowing how to deal with this type of environment could mean the difference between life and death if a Marine is found on similar battlefields around the world.
“The environment can kill you much faster than the enemy can,” said Sgt. Matt Simpson, red hat instructor, MCMWTC.
Red hat instructors educate Marines on survival in the mountainous environment through the pre-environmental training class. These classes cover everything from survival techniques, such as water procurement, to the effect of the cold-weather environment on Marines’ health, weapons and movement.
However, these classes aren’t in the usual classroom setting with chairs and a powerpoint. Instructors lead Marines up through two miles of steep hills into the mountains to conduct the classes.
“It gives Marines more of a feel of the environment,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Miller, red hat instructor, MCMWTC.
Marines in the course strap on their cold-weather gear and hike up with snow shoes, boots and ski poles to assist them through the snow. What Marines don’t realize is their class began with their first step.
As they use the gear to get up the hills, they learn from trial and error about the equipment and the environment. By the time they sit down for their first lesson, they already have an idea of what they are learning and how it applies to them during the training.
The students then learn about the gear in a more formal manner. As the class training continues, they realize why they were so affected by their warming layers, the cold temperature and the elevation.
“Walking in snow shoes wasn’t that different, you just have to pick up your feet more,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Mennemeyer, mortarman, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “What really gets you is the elevation.”
The combination of the class and experiences the hike gave them, make the knowledge stick more firmly.
All the while, as they sit in the freezing, high-altitude environment they will soon be training in, they acclimate to the temperature and elevation and learn how to use their warming layers efficiently.
The pre-enviromental training teaches Marines not only how to survive a mountainous combat-zone but to function, fight and move efficiently in cold, high altitude environments.
“I can’t guarantee you’ll be comfortable,” Miller said. “But you’ll be alive.”