MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, BRIDGEPORT, Calif. – Subfreezing winds whip past the faces of dozens of Marines skiing down a snow covered mountain. For the last month, these Marines have learned to survive and train in the cold and desolate landscape found at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif.
Approximately 90 Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, served as the logistics combat element in support of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, during Mountain Exercise 6-16, aboard the MWTC, Feb. 24- March 26, 2016.
The MWTC is one of the most secluded posts, comprised of approximately 46,000 acres of terrain with elevations ranging from 5,000 feet to 11,000 feet. The exercise trains elements of the Marine air-ground task force across the warfighting functions for operations in mountainous, high altitude, and cold weather environments in order to enhance a unit's ability to shoot, move, communicate, sustain, and survive in the most rugged regions of the world.
"This training is really mirrored up to be a special purpose MAGTF," said 1st Lt. Jacob Lamar, the executive officer of Alpha Company, 7th ESB. "We support everything from sustainment, chow, water and logistics. It's really just the life support a division needs to be able to keep the fight going. Logistics drives operations. They can only go as far as they can be supplied and that's why this training is vital."
The Marines provided maintenance, general engineering, health services, and landing support. They also provided tactical water purification and transport in near freezing temperatures, and conducted engineer training exercises in order to their confidence and proficiency in a mountainous environment. Additionally, the Marines conducted useful helicopter support training in the mountainous environment.
The logistics primarily included food, equipment, tools, personnel, transportation, health and comfort products, and communications. It was necessary for the Marines operating in the almost inaccessible landscape to receive these supplies in order to complete their training.
"This is a unique opportunity, especially as a line company, to provide the larger logistics combat element in a mountainous terrain," added Lamar. "The environment opens our eyes to the larger picture of operations and it's an overall good experience."
The Battalion integrated 18 combat engineers with the infantrymen conducting MTX. This proved to be valuable training for both the infantrymen and the combat engineers. "We have a lot of capabilities as combat engineers and if we are being used correctly we can definitely help with mission accomplishment," said Cpl. Ian Carson, a combat engineer with Alpha Co., 7th ESB. "We limit the enemy's capabilities on attack. We use and build things to slow the enemy down. It could be things like building obstacles or sweeping for IED's and mines. Anything that could cause harm to any of the Marines we try to prevent from happening."
Living in such a ruthless environment pushed many Marines to their breaking points, but also built their determination and grit.
"It's one of the harshest environments you could be in," said Carson. "It's been a good challenge and given me the tools to be an effective leader. Instead of just having to handle the simple day-to-day tasks, now I also have to make sure my Marines are not going into hyperthermia or that they are not shutting down and going internal. The threat here is very real. If people are careless you could succumb to this environment very easily. It's definitely a trying and really difficult environment to be in and so it really builds the framework to establish good team work."
The exercise was divided into three phases. In phase one, service members learn technical skills that they will utilize throughout the exercise. These include courses in basic movement through the mountains, animal packing, skiing, and wilderness and cold weather survival. Phase two is basic mobility training, where Marines apply the skills they learned in grueling movements across the snow covered mountains.
Phase three was the final exercise, a culmination of everything they learned, applied to a simulated combat operation.
"Leadership is one of the key elements in having a successful mission and I think that this course has provided me with the tools to be a successful leader," said Carson.
Although the training is challenging and grueling, when the Marines leave the mountains, they will be better trained, experienced and connected as a unit.