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A Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps midshipman 2nd class builds a survival shelter. The midshipman trained at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif. and was taught survival and tactical skills in a mountainous environment, July 15. The 10-day training period was part of annual summer training for 155 midshipmen. (Official U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Matthew Comer)

Photo by Lt. Matthew Comer

Midshipmen ascend to new heights at Mountain Warfare Training Center

17 Jul 2014 | Navy Lt. Matthew Comer

Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps  Marine-option and U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen began summer training at the U. S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, July 12.
The 155 NROTC Midshipmen from 62 colleges and universities and 23 Naval Academy midshipmen were scheduled to train for 10 days in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range gaining exposure and learning to operate in a mountainous environment.
The Midshipmen began their training with an address by the commanding officer of MWTC, Col. Scott D. Leonard.
“This summer is your exposure to the Marine Corps, next summer at Officer Candidate School is your test,” said Leonard. “Enjoy your time here. What you do up here throughout the next ten days is going to be very important in establishing connections, and building confidence to get you through OCS. The Marines here are the subject matter experts. There is no one more qualified to teach you. Ask questions, be safe and enjoy yourselves.”
The first day of training contained briefs that covered topics from range safety and communications procedures to mountain safety and mountain health.  
“Keep me wild, that is our motto,” said Andrew Irvin, natural/cultural resources manager. “This is one of the most natural and realistic training environments in the Marine Corps.  Our goal is to cause as small of an impact on this pristine environment as possible. Pack in. Pack out.”
The training area at MWTC is headquartered at approximately 6,700-feet above sea level and rises to 11,100-feet.  MWTC was established in 1951, originally opened as a cold weather-training center. The MWTC operating area is 64,000 acres. The majority of the operating area is owned by the U.S. Forrest Service as part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, oversees the daily operations of MWTC.
“Plan, be prepared and know your group’s ability,” said Sgt. Edward Pricola, instructor, Mountain Leadership Course. “The weather in the mountains shifts rapidly.  Maintain proper clothing and equipment for drastic weather and temperature changes.”       
More than 24 percent of the Earth’s land mass is mountainous terrain. MWTC is the sole Defense Department mountain training facility to prepare service members.  
Throughout their training the Midshipmen were scheduled to learn skills including repelling, mountain safety, stream and rope-bridge crossing, land navigation, survival and Marine tactics in a mountain environment.
“Take this opportunity to get to know each other,” said Lt. Col. Mark Shellabarger, NROTC Mountain Warfare Training OIC and North Carolina Peidmont NROTC Consortium executive officer. “This environment, this terrain, is going to test you; it is going to exhaust you. The midshipmen sitting next to you will get you through this.”
Midshipmen attending the summer training were recommended to achieve a minimum of 250 on their Physical Fitness Test to meet the physical requirements of the training. The test is comprised of a three-mile run, sit-ups and pull-ups.
“I have been doing weight resistance training and hiking to prepare for this week’s evolutions,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Alex Vrancic, 20, from the Florida State University NROTC unit.
The NROTC program is currently overseen by Rear Adm. Rich Brown and his Naval Service Training Command staff, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. More than 150 colleges and universities either host NROTC units or have cross-town enrollment agreements with a host university.
For more information about NROTC, visit
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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms