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Sgt. Eric Masters, mountain leader instructor, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, conducts a weapons check before going to the night vision live-fire range aboard the training center, Feb. 20, 2014. During the day the Marines traveled long distances, and at night coordinated battle skills while on the same challenging terrain.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Charles Santamaria

Marines sharpen mountain warfare skills

21 Feb 2014 | Lance Cpl. Charles Santamaria

The temperature began to drop on the mountain side of the training area as Marines hiked for miles with ammunition and weapons through the deep snow and mountainous terrain. The three-day long exercise was part of a long-range movement to a simulated guarded position which concluded Feb. 21, 2014.

As they advanced to a simulated enemy camp, they trudged through the powder-white snow of Range 1000 at an elevation of 8,000 feet at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif.

Mountain leader instructors participated in the exercise to further their knowledge of cold weather mountain warfare. This iteration was different in that the participants now executed the long-range movement with live-fire drills at designated ranges in the training area.

“Instructors conduct the long range movement twice a year, once in summer and once in winter, each spanning 40 to 50 kilometers to maintain their proficiency,” said Capt. Brian Guiney, future operations officer, MCMWTC. “With this iteration, we wanted to incorporate a greater play of live-fire. It’s a senior instructor progression [exercise] which is intended to train instructors even further so they can give that knowledge back to other infantry battalions to pass on.”

The technical skills instructors teach Marines to maintain a combat mindset in the harshest conditions. Keeping the course diverse and challenging is always a factor.

“We can’t teach and preach something we don’t conduct ourselves,” said Staff Sgt. Edgar Alvarado, summer and winter mountain leader, instructor, MCMWTC. “As instructors, we have to keep these courses fresh by using different routes, thinking outside of the box, and exposing ourselves to different terrain each time to always learn something new.”

During the day, Marines traveled long distances, and at night they coordinated battle skills while on the same challenging terrain. The exercise involved a simulated call for fire from artillery, movement to an enemy base, proper reconnaissance of an enemy position at night and live-fire and maneuver and firing on targets with night vision goggles.

“These exercises are meant to put Marines out of their comfort zones and into an unfamiliar area,” Alvarado said. “As Mountain leaders, they have to find a way to overcome the effects of Mother Nature. Marines have to be able to employ weapons and conduct tactics with the skills and fundamentals we teach them here. We develop Marines into mountain leaders so they can effectively maintain combat readiness and effectiveness while in the mountainous terrain and harsh weather.”

The instructors take on the course knowing that it is essential for them to sharpen their skills so they can pass on the fundamentals of mountain warfare to the units they train. With this exercise, the instructors furthered their training and can better understand the importance of what this environment can teach infantrymen and the value it has in the Marine Corps.

“These instructors go through this training to better prepare others for the environment. There are no mountain warfare troops or units in the Marine Corps, so we bring individuals up here and make force multipliers by giving them the skills so they can make their unit more effective, which makes the Marine Corps more effective,” Guiney said. “We want to progress the long-range movement exercise and try to make each one more dynamic and challenging in the future.”

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