MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, BRIDGEPORT, Calif. --
Approximately 900 Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, traveled to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to undergo the Summer Mountain Exercise at Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, from May 25 to June 25, 2015.
The battalion sent their Marines to California to conduct a month-long training operation that would allow them to acclimate in a mountainous environment in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Okinawa, Japan, through the unit deployment program.
“Going to Bridgeport and getting hands-on training in the mountains was an eye-opener for us,” said Staff Sgt. Darren Tisdale, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company.
The Marines were tested in their ability to function in an environment they are unfamiliar with. The battalion is stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where the terrain is flat with little to no hills.
“There are certain things that are specific to the mountainous environment that we can’t simulate on the east coast,” said 1st Lt. Tyler McNeil, the platoon commander for 3rd Plt., Bravo Co.
McNeil says that the battalion can only do so much at Camp Lejeune to help ready the Marines for what they will encounter on their UDP.
While at Bridgeport, the Marines were put into situations that would test them mentally and physically. The Marines were given obstacles that they would have to take head-on.
“There was a day where we conducted a gorge crossing where you’re strapped into two ropes and a carabineer in a Swiss-seat going across a 200-foot drop with a river running beneath you,” said Sgt. Jeffery Tarvis, a squad leader with 2nd Plt., Alpha Co. “I think that really tested some of the Marines’ courage. I know it did for me.”
The Marines spent 12 days at four different locations learning essential skills to master the rough terrain. At each of the four locations, the Marines learned rock climbing, cliff assaults, rappelling, survival techniques, and casualty evacuation.
Each company encountered tough challenges, in which they would have to use their knowledge of the surrounding area to their advantage.
“They taught us how to build shelters and purify water so if we get stuck in mountainous terrain, we can use the resources around us to survive,” said Tarvis. “And now if we come across a cliff or area that we need to get down, we can have our assault climbers prepare it and we can confidently repel down it.”
Due to the stress of the situations, Marines were required to fill leadership positions and guide each other throughout the training exercise.
“Squad leaders and team leaders have never had as much responsibility as here,” said McNeil. “When you get dropped into an area that you are unfamiliar with, you have to learn to step up and I feel they accomplished that.”
“At the end of the day, the biggest takeaway from this is I want my Marines to think anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” said Tisdale. “I want them to have the mindset of ‘I can overcome this’.”
After completion of the month-long exercise, the Marines returned to Camp Lejeune where they will continue to train toward the upcoming UDP later in the year. While deployed, the battalion will go through a jungle warfare training package and visit multiple countries that host similar terrain to that of Bridgeport.
“The theater that we are deploying to is very mountainous so this is the best preparation we can do,” said McNeil. “Now that we have operated in this environment, we are that much more confident.”