MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment completed their week-long final exercise of the cold-weather package at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center April 20, 2012, in Bridgeport, Calif.
After a week of learning how to survive and be combat effective in the harsh environment, Fox, Echo and Golf Companies faced off against Weapons Company in simulated warfare.
“Now when I think of cold-weather training, this is what I think of,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob B. Schreader, team leader, 2/7, as he sat in the snow during the exercise.
It may seem as though the odds were unfair, with three companies along with the support of the Headquarters and Service Company at the Combat Operation Center against a single company, but they were not.
Weapons Co. had the home field advantage, and the help of the red hat instructors who had knowledge of the terrain and are experts in mountain tactics.
The exercise simulated Marine Corps’ operations in a foreign country, Marines versus local enemy combatants.
After that first snowstorm, temperatures dropped below the 20s. Marines hunkered down in their tents until the next morning.
“Our Gortexes would get wet. Then when we would wake up, we had frozen Gortexes,” Schreader said.
The storm eventually blew over, but the Marines’ work was still cut out for them as they continually relocated their positions, moving through the mountains looking for their enemy counterparts.
“In the desert, everything is flat,” said Sgt. Jonathan Hatcher, squad leader, 2/7. “But in the mountains, you don’t know what’s over the next ridgeline.”
The Marines continued day after day, surviving in the cold mountains, eating their cold-weather Meals, Ready to Eat, and firing their blank rounds when making contact.
Rules of combat were simple. Any obvious kill made by one side would result in a casualty and the Marine would play dead. But Marines being Marines, would never want to admit they’d been hit and never want to be taken out of the fight. So on occasion, the leadership would have to step in and order a Marine to swallow his pride and play dead until the attack ended.
After seven days of mounting attacks and fending off enemy troops in the freezing conditions, the exercise was over. There wasn’t a single Marine who didn’t look forward to the warm bed and hot shower awaiting them after they finished their final hike back down the mountainside.