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Marine becomes first female to conquer grueling course

13 Sep 2013 | Lance Cpl. Paul S. Martinez

History was made in the chilly, mountainous terrain of Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport when the first female Marine completed the Assault Climber’s Course.

Cpl. Heather Redenius, combat engineer, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, began the course on August 12, 2013 and pushed through until its conclusion on September 4.

“Assault Climber’s Course is a very challenging course that tests Marines mentally as well as physically,” said Capt. Hunter Armour, unit training group instructor, MCMWTC. “Of the 36 Marines that started the course, 18 graduated.”

According to Armour, the course tested Marines on the tying of knots, rope systems, and climbing vertical and near vertical landscapes. During the course, the Marines conducted most of their training at Leavitt Training Area, which consists of multiple rock faces that range from approximately 25 to 50 feet in height.

“After running a physical fitness test, unadjusted for elevation, Marines are run through a series of classes, demonstrations, and periods of practical applications,” Armour said. “Assault climbers are trained to be capable of influencing the battlefield in a unique way. They are taught to tie systems to cross gorges, water obstacles, package casualties, raise and lower casualties over vertical and near vertical obstacles, establish lanes for Marines to overcome similar obstacles, and set retrievable rappels on such objectives.”

“I volunteered for the course to branch out and learn something new,” Redenius said. “It was very fast paced, but I enjoyed every part. For me, the most challenging part was the climbs. We learned to use climbing equipment called ‘cams’ and ‘nuts’ to scale the sides of very high cliffs.”

The practical application of using the climbing equipment culminated in the final events of the training course.

“Their final exercises involved the climbing of Big Face, which is approximately 150 to 200 feet in height depending on the climb,” Armour said. “Then, they ran the battalion staff through multiple fixed lanes at the Asteroid Field, an exposed rock that includes vertical and near vertical terrain.”

However, Redenius and 17 of her fellow Marines completed the task.

“At no point did I consider giving up,” Redenius said.

With the Marine Corps offering existing military occupational specialties and training packages to females, Marines like Redenius show that they are ready to accept the new challenges that lie ahead.

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