Unit tackles assault climbing in West Va. mountains

15 Nov 2001 | Cpl. Mike Vrabel

One hundred and fifty six warriors from 2d Reconnaissance Battalion, 2d Marine Division gathered in the wooded hills here Nov. 5-16 for some mountain training, "recon" style.

From their field camp at "Old Calvert's Farm," the recon Marines conducted various training, including rock climbing and mountainous terrain patrolling; skills that according to one reconnaissance Marine will be crucial in the future.

"We need this," said Lance Cpl. Scott M. Grant, from Harrison, Maine. "Not everywhere we will be called upon to fight will be flat, like Camp Lejeune."

Teams took turns tackling a nearly 50-foot, vertical rock cliff, in different ways. After perfecting rappelling skills step-by-step down the ledge, the "mountaineers" took the cliff from the bottom, a climbing process called top roping.

With ropes secured at the top of the crag, Marines slipped their feet and hands into sparse crevices in the rock wall, taking several minutes to hoist themselves to the pinnacle. This process proved fun but challenging for the unit's climbers.

"It's tough, especially trying to find places to set your feet and hands," Grant said of the top roping process. "It's good training, though."

Detroit native Sgt. James B. Farrington agreed.

"Climbing really takes a lot out of you," explained Farrington after tackling the ascent.

Conquering cliffs was not the extent of the unit's "elevated" training. Marines also conducted standard reconnaissance packages, such as rear area patrolling and day and night land navigation.

"The purpose of this operation is to enhance our ability to operate as a unit in a mountainous environment," explained Shenandoah, Va. native Capt. Jonathon W. Good, the battalion's assistant operations officer.

The Marines also practiced long-range communication skills, and received some practical survival skills, enduring brisk temperatures, which frequently reached near freezing after nightfall.

According to 1st Platoon Sergeant Gunnery Sgt. William K. Schanz, the environment and terrain around Camp Dawson added to the basic training his Marines conducted.

"We were able to scout out lading zones and observation points, as well as doing area reconnaissance in a mountain terrain," said Schanz, from Dallas.

The mountain training for 2d Recon concluded with a four day Final Exercise (FINEX), which included all of the mountaineering skills learned here as well as basic reconnaissance tasks.