MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE --
The Marine Corps is renowned for its ability to be ready to fight anywhere in the world within a moment’s notice, which is the reason the Marines of 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, participated in Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training from Aug. 14 through Sept. 14, 2013.
More than 650 Marines and sailors, from 2nd Marine Division and 2nd Marine Logistics Group, as well as Canadian soldiers with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, took part in the month-long training conducted in Toiyabe National Forest, Calif.
In order to master the training, service members had to pass through three different phases.
The first phase, called pre-environmental training, teaches Marines how to make drinking water using filtration systems, to make improvised shelters, to tie knots necessary for rappelling and to safely cross gorges.
Phase two is the basic mobility phase, conducted over a 13-day period at four locations, where they practiced various survival techniques.
At the first site the Marines learned escape and evasion techniques and had to survive as a fire team on one meal, ready to eat for more than 48 hours. After hiking to the second site they worked on land navigation in mountainous terrain and steep earth climbing with 65-pound packs.
“Between each site the Marines had to conduct a two-hour to eight-hour foot movement to the next site,” said Lt. Col. Steve Pritchard, the battalion commander for 1st Bn., 10th Marines.
At the third site, the service members learned rappelling with their gear in day and night conditions, after which they had to conduct an assault ascending the cliff.
Site four was individual rock climbing during both day and night while the Marines’ equipment was being hauled to the top. A river crossing in approximately 40 degree, chest-high water, was included as well.
The mountainous terrain wasn’t the only challenge for the Marines, who also had to deal with the high elevation.
“Six thousand seven hundred feet to 11,000 feet is a lot of elevation gain so it takes more time to get between checkpoints,” Pritchard said. “However in the mountains we can go from 7,800 feet, come back to 6,000 feet then go back up and down continuously which made it very difficult.”
To combat the difficulties of traveling through the mountains, the training center teaches a new system during the hikes.
“In the Marine Corps on average we usually hike three miles for 50 minutes with a 10 minute break in between. Now in the mountains you may go half of a mile in 50 minutes because of the terrain,” said Pritchard, a Weymouth, Mass., native. “So out there we conduct what is called a 25 and five, which is every 25 minutes we take a five minute break so the Marines can retain some sort of energy during the strenuous hikes.”
A big problem facing the Marines was logistics. At higher elevations the level of oxygen begins to diminish which not only effects fatigue levels, but also plays into the logistical aspect because it limits helicopters’ ability to bring supplies to the Marines. Additionally, ground vehicles can’t navigate the rough terrain making resupply impossible.
“We were reliant upon 19th century technology in order to resupply our units. The use of mules for logistical resupply was taught and applied,” said Pritchard. “During the training we had had two strings of eight mules that provided logistical support to our units.”
The mules helped the Marines by bringing food, water, weapons and ammunition.
With all of the knowledge taught in the first and second phase they were ready to move onto the final phase of training. Phase 3 is better known as the six-day field evolution.
The Marines were faced with scenarios, which would force them to use everything they learned throughout the training.
“If we as Marines say any clime and any place, then the mountains are one of those places,” said Pritchard. “So we have to be prepared to fight and win in any clime and place.”