"A" Company Marines Tackle Mountain;;From marching on the parade deck, to marching on top of Briery Mountain

8 Mar 2004 | Sgt. Stephen L. Traynham

On Feb. 29 a Marine detachment from "A" Company, Second Platoon, reinforced with a squad from First Platoon journeyed to the rough terrain of Camp Dawson, West Virginia for a taste of mountain and arctic training. Upon arrival, the objective was clear -- mountains; more so, how to ascend and descend them as a platoon employing tactical techniques. Marines from the Special Operations Training Group, Second Marine Expeditionary Force provided the training for the 8th & "I" marchers. The first two days were spent mostly in the Robert C. Byrd West Virginia Army National Guard Regional Training Institute, where the Marines received classes on mountain safety, cold weather clothing, mountain navigation and cold weather injuries outdoor classes were also conducted so Marines could apply the techniques needed for the challenge ahead of them. Some of the focal points of the outdoor training were knot tying, crossing a one rope bridge, and rappelling in full combat gear. Once all of the classroom time was completed, it was time to tackle Briery Mountain. Captain Richard C. Mitchell, detachment platoon commander, had a terrain model built and delivered the warning order along with the commander's intent to the platoon sergeant and the squad leaders. The order, with all pertinent information, was disseminated to all the troops; rucksacks were packed, and the Marines from "A" Company were ready. Even though the Marines are used to marching on the parade deck of 8th & "I", they showed that the hills, draws and fingers of Briery Mountain were no problem. The Marines formed a tactical column and proceeded to step out on the first leg of the eight mile forced march. Hand and arm signals were used to pass information throughout the movement, at every stop, the Marines hustled to set up security displaying the skills that were instilled in them at the School of Infantry. The endurance of the Marines was unveiled when they reached their first objective almost three hours before the deadline stated in the warning order. Upon reaching the objective, Mitchell set up a security perimeter and set out to complete the mission of attacking and seizing several possible simulated terrorists camped out near Camp Dawson. The Marines of "A" Company moved in on the target and prevented three out of the four perpetrators from escape. This would mark the end of the first mission and the end to a hard day at the office."The Marines moved exceptionally well today. They maintained a constant and steady pace moving from the line of departure to the first objective," said Capt.Urbano Cruz, officer in charge of the SOTG instructors. Shortly after the conclusion of the mission, a bivouac site was arranged and the tired, weary Marines were able to get some much-needed rest. Marines woke to with the pounding rain trickling down their cheeks, and another full day of training.The platoon separated into squads, with each squad navigating itself through the mountain to locate a resupply point and moving on to establish their squad patrol bases. With the guidance of the small unit leader, defensive security was set up and reinforced fire teams were sent out on patrols. As the Marines completed their patrols and settled into their tents, Mitchell received the last warning order for the training evolution. The squads had to reconnect to a platoon in order to accomplish the final mission. Already pushing their bodies beyond what they thought capable, the Marines headed out to tackle the final objective with packs on and weapons in hand. Showing little signs of fatigue, the Marines stormed the enemy compound as brazen as they were on the first training day. To the surprise of the attacking Marines, a small twist would be added to this objective-- their leader Mitchell, would become a casualty of war and need to be medically evacuated. There was a slight moment of panic before Sgt. Eric L. Mitchell took charge of the platoon. Filling the shoes of the platoon commander, his namesake, proved tasking, but the enlisted Mitchell did a successful job. Once the platoon arrived at the medivac site, the mission was over and once again the Marines had completed their task with ample time to spare. Their three day venture in the mountains was now at an end, or was it? One more task-the five miles trek down the slope of Briery Mountain. Altogether, the Marines hoofed close to twenty miles up and down the oversized mound of granite while ascending nearly 2,500 ft. at times."I had a slight idea of what to expect when we left for Camp Dawson, but I never imagined that we would be climbing Mount Everest," said HM3 James R.O'Hara, hospital corpsman attached to the Barracks.The Marines would walk away from Camp Dawson with a sense of what mountain and artic training would be like in Bridgeport, Calif. "We put together a small package for the Marines to get a taste of mountain survival and tactics. They adapted and even surpassed some of the expectations of myself and the instructors," said Cruz on the accomplishments of the "A" Company Marines. "They did pretty good."