Thundering Third uses rope bridges to overcome mountainous terrain
By Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
As America’s crisis response force, Marines must be ready to engage hostile threats in any environment.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment will become the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element in October. Mountain Exercise 2014 develops critical skills the battalion will need during deployment.
Specifically, the training ensures the Marines are prepared for mountainous terrain if the need arises while deployed with the 15th MEU next year.
As part of the training package, Marines learned how to cross adverse terrain, such as gorges, gaps, and rivers while training to build and cross rope bridges aboard Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., Aug. 27.
“This whole training evolution is preparing us to be a MEU asset,” said Staff Sgt. James Leach, an infantry leader with 3rd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. “This specific training gives us the capabilities needed if we’re ever tasked to go to a location where we need to assault a cliff. We’ll be ready; It’s all about being able to give the MEU more options.”
In addition to acclimatizing their bodies to the high altitude and vertical trails, Marines spent the first two days of training learning how to tie basic knots, seat harnesses, and repelling off cliffs.
“We have a lot of new Marines in our unit, so learning the basics and getting used to a new terrain is crucial to their development and benefits the unit overall,” Leach said. “Above all, this ensures we’re being safe when doing the training. The last thing you want to have is a Marine go down because they didn’t know how to properly do this.”
After the basics, Marines made their way to a gorge where they received a final brief on how and when to properly employ rope bridges.
One at a time, Marines, with their packs and rifles, made their way across the gorge using a double-rope bridge, which was suspended more than 100 feet above ground. Once safely across, Marines were critiqued by an instructor and instructed how to improve.
The training also served as an opportunity to build confidence among the Marines.
“There are always a few Marines who have a fear of heights,” said Leach, 30, who is from Rutherfordton, N.C. “This allows them to gain confidence in the gear, training, and themselves. That way if they ever need to do this for real, they know they can.”
Once Marines made their way across the double rope, they moved to a secondary crossing, this time using a single-rope bridge, which was suspended 10 feet above a stream.
“The training was great,” said Lance Cpl. Eric Mercado, an infantry assaultman with 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3/1. “This was my first time doing this and I was nervous at first, but once I was on the bridge, I just enjoyed it.”
With the training complete Marines with 3/1, prepare for their next portion of training which will include survival skills in the wilderness.
“In the Marine Corps we fight wherever the enemy is going to be,” said 2nd Lt. Hunter Harrison, a platoon commander with 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3/1. “Sometimes that’s going to be in the mountains. There’s a lot of technical ability that goes into crossing these steep terrains then you’d think, so it’s important that we not only learn it, but master it.”