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Marines assigned to Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, belay Marines while practicing rock climbing operations during phase two of Mountain Warfare Training Exercise 5-15 aboard Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Sept. 10, 2015. The training covered maneuvering throughout mountainous terrain features by rope climbing and rappelling as well as surviving in the rugged environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Will Perkins/Released)

Photo by Cpl. William Perkins

Bridgeport: Headquarters Battalion tackles Basic Mobility Training

7 Sep 2015 | Cpl. William Perkins 1st Marine Division

Marines and Sailors assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, conducted Basic Mobility Training during phase two of Mountain Warfare Training Exercise 5-15 aboard Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, California, Sept, 7-17, 2015.

The training covered maneuvering throughout mountainous terrain features by rope climbing and rappelling as well as surviving in the rugged environment.

To kick off the second phase of MTNEX, the Marines and Sailors utilized the rope tying skills they learned in phase one to transition into learning the basics of rappelling.

“Day one, it was just us rappelling down the face of a cliff and then another with rifles to get comfortable with having gear on us,” said Cpl. Benjamin Stoflet, a radio operator assigned to Communications Company, HQ Bn. “After that we moved on to do one with packs and at night.”

The instructors covered how to climb a cliff face to receive the tactical advantage. This technique is referred to as top-rope climbing. Two Marines begin on the bottom and while one climbs the jagged cliff face looking for foot and hand holds, the secondary man remains at the bottom ensuring their fellow Marine remains safe by belaying them.

“We learned how to climb up the face of a cliff or a rock instead of going down it,” Stoflet said. “Using a two-man buddy team, a belay man and climber, we learned the commands and effective ways to climb.”

Once the Marines were proficient in scaling a cliff to conduct an assault on a simulated target, they moved to a wooded area where they were required to survive for two-days. They constructed a shelter, purified water and rationed food. The Marines learned how to start a signal fire utilizing the bow and drill technique.

“It was a great squad cohesion building exercise,” said Cpl. Darian Houston, a satellite communications operator assigned to Comm. Co., and native of Millington, Tennessee. “Since no one knew exactly how to build a shelter, we had to collectively come up with a decision and get it done.”

“One of the things [the instructors] preached was to always be improving your shelter every chance you got, such as putting pine needles on the ceiling and walls to keep it more insulated,” Houston added.

In a real-life survival situation, a stranded Marine may be required to escape and evade from an enemy force. Being hunted by the instructors, the Marines made their way to a final landing zone with only a hand drawn map and the mask of dawn.

The mountainous terrain of Bridgeport brings its own set of challenges the Marines don’t find in Camp Pendleton including a drastic change in altitude and freezing temperatures.

“A lot of people get sick up here, it’s called Acute Mountain Sickness,” Stoflet said. “It’s caused by the altitude change because we’re all from Camp Pendleton, which is at 24 feet above sea level, we’re well above 8,000 right now.”

“The mountains will break you off, but as long as you keep your head in the fight, there’s nothing that every Marine shouldn’t be able to do and grow stronger as a unit,” said Cpl. Matthew Semple, a satellite communications technician with Comm. Co.“It’s been a unique training opportunity to help us grow in leadership and mountain warfare skills.”

“This is some of the best training that I’ve got in the Marine Corps,” Stoflet stated. “It really pushes Marines past their comfort levels. Everybody is used to going through to the range, shooting weapons, learning about weapons and tactics. Bridgeport really puts us outside of our comfort zone by getting people over their fears, like heights.”

The second phase of Mountain Warfare Training Exercise 5-15 focused on applying the basic skills learned in phase one to navigating and surviving in the mountainous environment. At the end of the phase, the Marines and Sailors of the battalion prepared to execute phase three which had them utilize their skills to act as an opposing force against 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, which was also participating in the exercise.