Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif. – --
quiet winter morning in a mountain field, the natural silence is shattered by a
landing helicopter. Marines quickly exit the helicopter into knee deep snow,
and drag their 90-pound packs through the snow to set up security, then rapidly
trudge through the snow to the nearby tree line.
The Warlords of 2nd Battalion, 2nd
Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division inserted into the Mountains of the Toiyabe
National Forest, Jan. 31, 2014 for a six-day field exercise to finish the
Mountain Exercise winter training package at MCMWTC, Bridgeport, Calif.
During the exercise the Marines lived
at patrol bases and conducted long range movements during daylight and night
over extremely rugged terrain.
“The environment combined with the
companies tasking’s to move from here to there and climb this mountain in the
dark with snowshoes, really tested the Marines mentally and physically,” said
2nd Lt. Ben Hooker, a Golf Company platoon commander and Albuquerque, N.M.,
native. “A lot of these Marines haven’t done anything like this before, they
really learned what they’re capable of.”
With mountain areas with peaks
reaching nearly 11,000 feet above sea level and valleys down to 6,500 feet
above sea level, temperatures ranged from near freezing to nearly negative 20
F. The rugged terrain and cold made moving and surviving on the mountain
difficult, the Marines had to work together to make it through the exercise.
“The Marines made it through because
they wanted the team to succeed,” said 1st Lt. Richard Benning, the Golf
Company commander and College Station, Texas native. “One guy being lifted up
by his team, helped them find the inner strength to push through those mental
walls, it brings a bond that is stronger in the long run.”
Capt. Stephen Desmond, the Easy
Company commander said that “the biggest takeaway on the individual level was
that the Marine’s true colors came out. When there are conditions as extreme as
Bridgeport, the Marines can’t rely only on the skills they have, it takes a lot
of heart and courage to get through it.”
Leadership was another skill the
Marines learned and honed during the FEX, because of injuries sustained due to
the environment, many Marines had to step up to leadership positions beyond
Desmond said, that he had 15 Marines
check into Easy Company Dec. 19, from the School of Infantry, five of the
Marines have already been pushed into team leader roles.
“When we came here, one of our platoon
sergeants was at the Mountain Leaders Course,” said Staff Sergeant Jeremy La
Force, a Golf Company platoon commander and Santa Maria, Calif., native. “One
of my corporals was filling in and was injured. We ended up with a lance
corporal acting as the platoon sergeant. He was able to effectively keep
accountability for the Marines and employ them. Because of the environment the
Marines had to be ready to step up.”
Before the FEX, the Marines learned
survival skills and how to move around the mountain using snowshoes and skis
while carrying everything they need on their backs.
“One of the most important things the
Marines learned was route planning, we came from Camp Lejeune, which is 10 feet
above sea level, but here we’re making platoon movements from 8-10,000 feet
above sea level,” said Desmond, a Scituate, Mass., native. “We had a hard time
early in the training moving to the basic mobility site, it was a gut check for
a lot of our guys, many of whom would look at the contour lines on a map and
think, ‘I’m a Marine I can conquer it,’ now they can look at the terrain with
respect, they can move to a location and still have juice to fight.”
Warlords of 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, were augmented by detachments from 2nd Light
Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment and
were joined by Ragnarok Company, a composite unit sourced from 2nd Supply
Battalion and other units within 2nd Marine Logistics Group. Air support was
provided by the California Air National Guard, which allow the Marines to train
with each element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.
Warlords and its attached units underwent the winter training package at MCMWTC
to prepare for the upcoming a multi-lateral joint and combined exercise Cold
Response, which will take place in March of 2014 in Norway.