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Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, set up security at Sonora Pass during Mountain Training Exercise 2-15 at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, March 23, 2015. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria

'Lava Dogs' prepare for 'every clime and place'

30 Mar 2015 | Cpl. Charles Santamaria Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marines and sailors with 1/3, based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, conducted the Final Exercise of Mountain Training Exercise 2-15 at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., March 22 through March 26, 2015.

The "Lava Dogs" were inserted into the mountainous terrain of MCMWTC, leaving the battalion to remain self-sustained for extended periods of time, as companies traveled to opposition forces perched atop several mountains.

“The Marine Corps prepares Marines for ‘every clime and place’ and that’s what I feel our Marines are demonstrating when they learn and train here,” said Capt. Francisco Vega, company commander, Company A, 1/3.

Marines were observed by mountain leaders, who monitored their progress and recorded all notional casualties or enemy fire sustained during contact with opposition in order to keep track of the battalion’s progress throughout the exercise. Assets used during 1/3’s Final Exercise included simulated artillery fire, scout sniper elements, crew-served .50-caliber Machine Gun teams, simulated mortar fire and air support.

“You have to be more alert to your squad’s capabilities, not only physically but mentally,” said Lance Cpl. Chris Downs, squad leader, 1/3. “It’s my first time training at [MCMWTC], so having a solid foundation with [Standard Operating Procedures] is important because then all you have to worry about is taking on the challenge of the terrain and weather.”

Freezing temperatures, high elevation, strong winds and long movements over rugged terrain were some of the challenges faced by 1/3 Marines and sailors during their assault. The battalion’s ability to adapt and overcome the environment allowed them to obtain a favorable position over the enemy, effectively pushing the opposition further down the mountain.

According to Vega, the battalion went through mobility training before beginning the final evolution. The class taught Marines and sailors the best ways to navigate the terrain, pack and utilize the right equipment, and properly traverse the training area without being spotted.

“I’m very impressed by the Marines; their conduct, behavior and ability to adapt to the environment and to use it to their advantage,” Vega said. “Over the duration of their mobility training they learned many lessons, like packing the right equipment and utilizing it effectively [to traverse the area.]"

The "Lava Dog’s" main effort would end the exercise with a final assault on enemy forces at Sonora Pass, located approximately 10,000 feet above sea level. Marines continue to train for "every clime and place" at MCMWTC, just as they did during the base’s creation in the early 1950s in response to lessons learned at Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.

“You’ll always find someone who is willing to step forward and answer the call,” Vega said. “I don’t think there’s a big difference between the Marines of the past and the present; it boils down to the spirit of Marines which carries on.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms