3/6 battles the mountains in Bridgeport

15 Sep 2000 | LCpl. Zachary A. Crawford

All that was heard on the mountainside was the sound of pinecones and small twigs being crushed under their boots. They were making their way through the rocky, tree infested terrain to the Combat Operations Center where they would link up with other units and prepare for further operations.Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines are participating in the Summer Mountain Operations Course 8-00 here. There are four phases the Marines are involved in while participating in the month-long course. The first phase consists of the "core package" in which Marines learn basic skills such as building rope bridges, tying knots, rappelling and rock climbing. During the second phase, Marines learn about patrolling through the mountainous terrain of Northern California. The third phase is a company level cliff assault course and the fourth phase is the final phase in which the Marines utilize all of the skills they have learned throughout the course to participate in the final exercise; also commonly known as the FINEX."This is the only place in the Marine Corps where you can do this type of training," said Lt. Col. Christopher N. Proudfoot, commanding officer, 3/6. "The terrain is similar to what we would encounter in the II Marine Expeditionary Force area of operations."The training evolution here is said to be demanding but also helps develop working relationships between Marines."This exercise has been a very special thing," said Proudfoot. "It's special because there is such a wide variety of Marines with different jobs who do different things to help out the overall objective of the battalion while out here; the Marines have also developed good cohesion by working together during the exercise." The training done at MWTC also helps the small unit leaders of the battalion develop their skills."There is definitely a focus on training the small unit leaders," said Proudfoot. "Even though the training is good for the small unit leaders, it is also physically and mentally challenging for the fire teams, squad leaders and the individual Marine."When asked about the benefits of doing training like this, some Marines gave their strong opinions."This training is very beneficial to the junior Marines," said Staff Sgt. Noel C. Thompson, company gunnery sergeant, Headquarters and Service Company, 3/6. "It truly emphasizes small unit leadership in an intense environment with demanding training. Small unit leaders must step up out here and get the job done right or the unit will fall apart and the mission will not be accomplished."Accomplishing the mission takes some serious commitment by both the Marines participating in the exercise and the instructors at MWTC."Everything that is done out here, from working the different rope systems to mountain patrolling, requires intense instructor and unit leader supervision to make sure it is done correctly and safely," said Thompson. "It really does allow all of the Marines in charge to see who their good leaders are. Overall the experience is fun; just like it should be.""Marines definitely gain a certain respect for the training and learn to appreciate the terrain involved in the exercise," said Maj. Jason M. Barrett, operations officer, 3/6. "Units have to be prepared and have the requisite knowledge to negotiate the obstacles out here. If they can't get past the obstacles, we would be limited to operate. Regardless of their Military Occupational Specialty or backgrounds, this type of training brings out the good Marines. If you have good Marines, you can master the mountain."The junior Marines of the Battalion seemed to have learned a lot from their experience at MWTC."This is a real good chance for us to learn not only how to survive and operate in the mountains, but we also learned how the different units work together toward one goal," said Lance Cpl. Jeff B. Gauthier, machine gunner, Weapons Co., 3/6.Overall, the exercise at MWTC was a successful one for 3/6 and it was also said to be an adventure."This is adventure training at its height," Proudfoot concluded. "We're working on our capability out here to work as a team due to the fact that many of our units and detachments will be deploying together in the future."