MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif. --
Point: 7,337 feet” reads a wooden sign atop a mountain. A squad of Marines
briefly catch their breath and sip water, one of many items securely packed in
their 75-pound fighting load. Many tasks remain before they travel this path
back the way they came.
with Alpha Company, Weapons Company and Engineer Platoon, Headquarters and
Service Company, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, began their Marine
Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment aboard Marine Corps
Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, California, May 5, 2015.
The unit’s arrival to MWTC comes
after completion of the standards-based tasks conducted since March aboard
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. The companies
find themselves operating in heavy change of scenery, trading in the sand and
dry brush of the desert for uphill dirt trails, sky-high trees, running streams
of water and even snow-topped mountains.
For the first several days, the
Marines were briefed on basic knowledge of the new environment. They were presented the opportunity to
explore their designated route and given thorough instruction of utilizing
knot-tying and a carabineer, the two tools essential for their assessment.
“Hiking along these trails is beautiful compared to the
desert,” said Lance Cpl. Jordan Osborne, rifleman, Co. A, GCEITF. “I volunteered to try something new. I
thought this was a really cool opportunity that will not pass by again.”
Unlike their assessment in Twentynine
Palms, which saw offensive and defensive operations split into two days, all
tasks at MWTC are completed over the course of a single day. One day, the
infantry-trained Marines of Co. A and Weapons Co. will step off, and the
following day, the provisional infantry Marines of those companies, as well as
the combat engineers, conduct the same required tasks.
MCOTEA representatives collected
data through the use of heart-rate monitors worn by participating Marines, and
overseeing data collectors assess each run-through.
The assessment begins with a squad
of Marines donning a main pack of 75 pounds and stepping off for an
approximately three-mile movement from lower base camp, along an elevating
trail and ending at a gorge. From there, the squad is required to don Kevlar helmets
and tie a military rappel seat around their waist, making a harness. With the
assistance of the mountain leaders, or “Red Hats,” they are secured to a rope
bridge and required to maneuver, upside-down, across the gorge, hanging 170
feet above ground.
“I was intimidated by the gorge cross,” Osborne said. “Ropes
kind of scare me. It was the first time I have ever had to cross over like
From there, squads regroup and
traverse a short distance to their next objective: scaling a 40-foot cliff
Once again making their rappel seats,
Marines step up to enter one of two designated lanes, secure their ropes and
make their ascent. Working in crews of three ensured that one Marine ascending
the wall was assisted by a belayer and a spotter, with his or her safety
covered. Once Marines reached the top, they stretched their legs to a standing
position and walked backed down, guided by their partners on the ground.
few people have a fear of heights,” said Sgt. Courtney G. White, machine
gunner, Weapons Co., GCEITF. “But it’s a
team effort and other people are depending on you to get across and continue
the mission. (Climbing) the rock wall was not the easiest thing for me, but you
learn to do it.”
After the last Marine completed
their descent, the squad regrouped to hike back the three miles from which they
“In your lifetime, you only get a
limited number of opportunities to be a part of something historic,” White
said. “Being one of the first females to try out for a combat position was
something I had to do.”
The task force is slated to continue
their assessment aboard MWTC until the end of the month.
From October 2014 to July 2015, the GCEITF will conduct
individual and collective level skills training in designated ground combat
arms occupational specialties in order to facilitate the standards-based
assessment of the physical performance of Marines in a simulated operating environment
performing specific ground combat arms tasks.