MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, CA. --
More than 800 Marines hiked atop the Sierra
Mountains, in the midst of
whistling winds, snow up to their knees and temperatures cold enough to mold
icicles during Mountain Exercise 1-16 for cold weather training at U.S. Marine
Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Jan. 4-23.
Of those 800 Marines, Nearly 80 were 2nd Low
Altitude Air Defense Battalion, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marines based out of
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point were spread across multiple units and took
part in the nearly three-weeklong exercise, designed to be a warm-up to
Exercise Cold Response 2016 in Norway. ECR 2016 is a NATO-level exercise
involving 10 countries pitting themselves against each other in a simulated
force on force live exercise in a cold, harsh environment.
“The training serves as a pre-deployment requirement
for mountainous terrain or cold weather climates,” said 1st Lt. Craig Waldman,
executive officer for 2nd LAAD Bn.’s B battery. “We are covering basic
mobility, movement over terrain, patrolling and setting up basic defensive
positions and offensive tactics such as ambushes and deliberate attacks in this
“Finally during our culminating event, there will be
practical application, like an attack, casualty evacuation and avalanche
rescue,” explained Waldman.
The first challenge Marines encountered was
acclimating themselves to elevations that exceeded 8,500 feet above sea level.
“The obvious dangers in the cold weather are frost
bite and hypothermia; the most common injuries,” said Waldman, “But with it
being such high elevation, Marines who aren’t properly acclimated can get
altitude sickness, which would lead to a casualty evacuation of that Marine off
Altitude sickness, aka Acute Mountain Sickness, is
the effect of climbing altitude at a rate exceeding the appropriate
acclimatizing process after they are 8,000 feet above sea level.
The MWTC instructors, aka “Red Hats,” provide the
necessary training needed to overcome the treacherous terrain and frigid
From ice-cold condensation in tents raining down on
the Marines while they slept, to having to boil the snow around them to have
clean water— they endured the little challenges that constantly gnawed at their
“Winter time is ninety percent mental and ten
percent physical,” said Sgt. Jarrod Bolden, a mountain warfare instructor at
the MWTC. “A hike is a hike, but when you add the winter element, your mind
goes into overdrive and a lot of people burn out and do not have the mental
strength to get through it.
In preparation for Marines to be ready to fight in
different climates around the world, the cold weather training pushed Marines
to their breaking points in order to strengthen their resolve.
“Some Marines are from warmer parts of the country
and are not used to exercising in a cold environment,” said Bolden. “You still
have to be a leader and deal with your biggest opponent… yourself.”
With the potential of sustaining a cold weather
injury, 2nd LAAD Bn. was the only unit that left the training completely unscathed.
“Everyone dreads coming to Bridgeport,” said Bolden.
“But once they leave, they are a better unit because of what they went through.”