MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, BRIDGEPORT, Calif. --
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, arrived at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., on Sept. 23, to learn the ins and outs of Marine Corps mountain operations and survival.
Unlike any other training center in the Marine Corps, the MCMWTC’s unique venue provided 3/7 Marines with miles of arduous mountain terrain for training.
“The training here is different from Twentynine Palms,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Adcox, acting company first sergeant, Company L, 3/7. “The main aspect is the terrain. Going from a low elevation, flat desert environment to a mountainous somewhat populated with vegetation, we are not accustomed.”
The unit’s first week at the training center was spent acclimatizing and taking classes in a classroom and put on the mountain. Their days of lessons on ropes, knots and pre-environmental training came in handy when their basic mobility training began the following week.
Throughout basic mobility, 3/7 Marines hiked through the mountainside. The Marines made long range movements across the mountains as they received survival and casualty training and learned to traverse different types of terrain.
Their survival training taught them how to properly use their gear as well as how to build weapons, tools and purify water.
“We learned various techniques that enabled us to come up here with a three day supply on our backs and with that, utilizing the mules, to get that one resupply over a four day period,” Adcox said.
A group of 3/7 Marines were chosen by their command to take the Animal Packers Course. These Marines were taught how to use pack mules as a logistical asset in resupplying units in otherwise unreachable terrain as well as getting injured Marines evacuated using the mules.
The unit also conducted casualty training through the use of several UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Marines called in 9-lines to the air officers who would guide the birds to the location of the unit. Simulated casualties were evacuated out of areas that would take normal vehicles hours to reach.
The steep earth of the training center was used to its fullest in the Marines’ instruction on climbing and rappelling. They used their lessons on ropes and knots to climb and rappel off the rocky ridges of the mountains.
“In the desert there aren’t a lot of places you can practice rappelling or rock climbing,” said Lance Cpl. Adam Burzynski, team leader, 3/7, in reference to the Combat Center’s training areas.
After basic mobility, 3/7 Marines headed to main side for a few days’ rest and to prepare for their final exercise.
“During basic mobility, they will have their combat loads, they might realize there are things they do and don’t need in their packs,” said Sgt. Warren Sparks, team leader, Mountain Leaders Unit Training Group. “When they come back down they can re-adjust and be able to whip it on for the FINEX.”
The FINEX tested Marines on everything they learned over the course of their training at Bridgeport. They needed to survive the environment as well as tactically conduct their combat operation.
“All the training leading up to this conditioned us for what we had to do for the final exercise,” Adcox said.
At night temperatures dropped below freezing and the days were spent procuring and purifying water and conducting combat operations. The Marines stayed vigilant, always aware of a possible attack by a simulated enemy across the ridgeline of the adjacent mountains.
They conducted interdiction operations, established blocking positions and sent out patrols as they maneuvered through the steep terrain of the training areas.
The shifting dirt of the sharply angled mountains proved to be difficult to traverse, especially with the thick bundles of vegetation that often cut them off, forcing them to reroute to reach their destination. Their load of ammunition, radio equipment, food, water and personal gear exceeded 100 pounds, pushing them to their physical limits as they hiked in the high altitude.
In addition to their constant movement by foot, heliborne 3/7 Marines conducted operations taking them further out to new training areas.
After several days in the mountains, the Marines returned to main-side to return their gear and rest before their return to the Combat Center.
“This training enables us to not only successfully meet our missions in this particular type of environment, but also preparations for Afghanistan and possible other mountain environments,” Adcox said. “Changing the environment and giving the variety of different climates and places offered to the Marines is a great opportunity and one that every unit should experience.”