MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Calif. --
Marines from 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, started to learn about proper cold weather gear, cold weather survival, expedient shelters, fire construction, and survival diets during training Oct. 14.
This is the first major training exercise that 3rd Bn., 9th Marines, has participated in as a whole battalion since they were activated on May 20.
Since their activation the battalion has received more than 500 new Marines straight from the two Schools of Infantry in the Corps.
Lt. Col. Daniel Greenwood, 3rd Bn., 9th Marines commanding officer, said the training helps in two main areas.
”It allows us to build our Marine’s conventional infantry skill in the hardest environment in the world, and it also helps to refine unit standard operatin proceduers,” he said.
According to some of the instructors, the training provides the Marines with experience that could be useful in in any type of survival situation, and builds unit cohesion.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to work together as a unit,” said Cpl. Michael P. Rice, a rifleman with Headquarters and Support Company. “I think it’s going to bring us together.”
The three-week training cycle put the Marines through a series of challenging hikes, tough classes and hands-on learning experiences. The training uses a crawl, walk, run approach to get Marines acclimated to the weather and the high elevation.
The elevation for the base camp of the mountain warfare training center is 6,400 feet, but during the training, Marines reach an elevation of 9,494 feet. The cold weather and high altitude have an effect on almost all Marines.
Rice, an Abilene, Texas, native, said it had adverse effects on him as well as the Marines around him.
“The first thing you notice is that the thin air makes it much more difficult to breathe,” he said.
Another challenge of the high elevation is that it makes the simplest tasks harder to perform and leaders must push themselves to their limits.
“The great flux in weather and lack of oxygen prepares us to operate in a harsh environment, and if the leaders aren’t ready to operate in this environment, it’s ultimately the Marines who suffer,” said Greenwood.
This is the first training package of its kind, and 3rd Bn., 9th Marines, are testing the training and providing feedback for future operations.
Lance Cpl. Antoine M. Wright, a Warehouse clerk with H&S Co., said he feels that the training helps Marines in a way no other type of training can.
“With the elevation and everything, everyone is in better shape, they’re better acclimatized, they’re more confident,” he said. “I’m going to feel like a gladiator when I go back to Camp Lejeune.”
With Marine battalions heading for Afghanistan, the Mountain Warfare Training Center seems like a great place to have on any eager battalion’s agenda. When these Marines are deployed, this may be the training that could literally mean life or death.