Photo Information

U.S. Marine Pfc. Ryan Iglesias, left, and Lance Cpl. Jonathan Ripoyla strategize on improving their survival shelter during Mountain Exercise 2014 aboard Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., Aug. 28, 2014. Iglesias and Ripoyla are both infantry riflemen assigned to 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. 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. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos/Released)

Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos

Marines learn survival skills in mountainous terrain

2 Sep 2014 | Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Knowing how to navigate in the wilderness is no easy task, especially if lost or stranded. Staying alive becomes a struggle when battling fatigue and elements of nature.
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.

To ensure they are prepared for the unknown, Marines with 3/1 trained to survive in the wilderness while aboard Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, Aug. 28, 2014.

“This is a great training experience for these Marines,” said Sgt. Shawn M. Gleason, a platoon guide with 3rd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Bn., 1st Marines. “A lot of them have never spent time in the wild. This will be a good opportunity for them to see how unforgiving the elements can be.”

The training started with classes on basic survival skills such as helpful tools, celestial navigation, building a shelter, and fire starting techniques.

“These are all skills that they’re going to need if they ever find themselves in this situation,” said Sgt. Christopher Cooksey, a survival instructor with MCMWTC. “We teach them how to do the basics the right way. A lot of people know the basics, but do them wrong. This leads to frustration, loss of energy, and doesn’t get you any closer to surviving.”

After the classes, Marines paired off and were given as much time as they needed to find a suitable location and erect their survival shelters.

Allowed to use only natural materials such as logs, branches, pine needles, and shrubs, Marines began to stake out their locations and set up their home for the next 48 hours.

“There is no evaluation in this exercise,” said Cooksey, 25, from Tracy, California. “The whole point is just to survive in the wilderness using the techniques we taught them today.”

While in the wilderness, Marines will face temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so constructing a shelter that can hold heat is a priority for these Marines.

“We chose a location near the river because of its location to water and we had good coverage from the wind,” said Cpl. Ryan Douglas, an infantry rifleman with 2nd Platoon, Company I. “Our biggest concern is staying warm tonight, so we’ve insulating the ground using pine needles.”

To simulate fatigue, each team was allowed one Meal, Ready-to-Eat for the first night.

As the survival training continues into the next day, Marines will be given additional classes on surviving tactically and stay one more night using new survival methods. This portion becomes crucial in the event they are ever stranded behind enemy lines.

“Surviving is a challenge, but when you have to be tactical about it; it becomes that much harder,” Cooley said. “Things like noise discipline, shelter location, and not leaving a trail significantly impact how you survive.”

The training at the exercise ensures the Marines are prepared for mountainous terrain if the need arises while deployed with the 15th MEU next year.