20 September – 1 October 2004: Bridgeport

Mark Skorup

Mark Skorup

“3/3 redeployed to MWTC in Bridgeport, CA.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 July to 31 December 2004


3/3 Command Chronology

“During Phase III, the Battalion displaced to conduct high altitude Mountain Warfare training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) in Bridgeport.  Initially, the Battalion divided into three elements.  Each element worked on one of the following techniques for three days: rappelling, rope bridge construction and crossing, and steep terrain association.  Due to the compressed timeline during this stage, it was necessary to arrange the elements in such a way as to spread-load the skill sets throughout each company.  The second stage of training consisted of a company level long-range patrol Field Exercise (FEX).  The companies conducted several long, arduous movements while sending out constant patrols in the high altitude, mountainous terrain.  The last stage of training at the MWTC was a Battalion FEX.  3/3 conducted a 14-kilometer foot movement through high altitude mountainous terrain to a village that was suspected of harboring enemy personnel.  Upon arrival at the village, the Battalion executed a cordon and search operation.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 July to 31 December 2004


Timeline

20 September “3/3 redeployed to MWTC in Bridgeport, CA.”

21 September “3/3 attended cold weather classes instructed by the MWTC staff”

22-23 September “3/3 conducted mountain survival training at the Levitt Training Area.”

24-25 September “3/3 Battalion conducted mountain patrolling exercises aboard MWTC.”

26-27 September “3d Battalion conducted high-altitude operations in Bridgeport, California”

28-30 September “3/3 conducted a Final Field Exercise consisting of a 14 kilometer movement to an objective area, that culminated in a cordon and search of the Lower Base Camp”

1-3 October “3/3 redeployed from MWTC to MCBH.”


News

‘America’s Battalion’ learns the ropes

By Pfc. Rich Mattingly | Marine Corps Base Hawaii | October 01, 2004

MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Bridgeport, Calif. – Moving from hot to cold, Marines from “America’s Battalion” train in the frigid climbs of Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif.

The first exercises of a three-part training package at MWTC was designed to give Marines from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines another set of valuable tools for locating and destroying the enemy in mountainous terrain.

Prepared with their “snivel” gear and they quickly acclimated to some of the colder weather they may soon experience, all while learning the “ropes” of mountain warfare.

“What we’re doing right now is putting all of our Marines through mountain skills training,” said Capt. Andrew Priddy, battalion operations officer with 3/3. “This first part of training has them learning rappelling, rope bridge building, and steep slope traversing and movement,” he continued.

The mountain warfare training itself was a standard package by MWTC standards.  However, 3/3 put a twist on things by training on the fire team, rather than on the squad or platoon, levels.

“We’ve pulled a fire team from each squad in each company to attend certain elements of the training,” said Priddy. “We might find ourselves in a position where we need to use squads to complete a mission, and we have to give ourselves the best chance of success by task-organizing to the lowest levels. We have to have that flexibility.”

After some knot-tying and cold-weather survival skills classes, America’s Battalion “rucked” up and humped out through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to their first training site. Among the tall pines and towering rock faces, it was three days and two nights of serious training.

The Marines learned how to climb and rappel while carrying their weapons and assault load, how to traverse a river or gorge using only ropes and how to assess slope terrain features.

“This is great training for where they’re going,” said Sgt. Daniel Blackwell, unit operations instructor at MWTC and former 3rd Marine Regiment grunt.  “Most of them haven’t been exposed to anything like this, and they’ll be able to see the real-world applications of this training very soon.”

The Marines took to the training well, running through drill after drill, perfecting their clove hitches and “swiss” seats.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Lance Cpl. Steven Mullins, rifleman with Kilo Co., who was being trained in traversing obstacles with ropes. “Normally, we’d have to shoot a re-direct or go around a river or canyon.  Now we go straight across.”

Source: Marine Corps Base Hawaii


 3/3 braves cold, altitude

By Pfc. Rich Mattingly | Marine Corps Base Hawaii | October 01, 2004

MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, Bridgeport, Calif. – Ascending to a lung-straining elevation of more than 10 thousand feet to Landing Zone Penguin, “America’s Battalion” set up camp and set in defense as part of a field-training scenario last week. With the entire 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment setting up for business in a single scenario, none of the Marines seemed to mind the extra breaths the thin air required.

“I’m pretty amped to be out here,” said Pfc. Justin Bennett, a Weapons Company81mm mortarman. “It’s cool to be able to put what we’ve been doing into practice,” said the dark-haired Panama City Beach, Fla. native, never taking eyes off his field of fire. In this particular scenario, the Marines were watching five mountain trails into an area representing the Pakistan-Afghani border. Intelligence reports had suggested anti-coalition forces might be smuggling weapons across the border, setting up caches where hostile forces might later retrieve them.

But it wasn’t only the ever-watchful Marines on patrol who got to put some new skills to the test.

“I’m out here monitoring the water supply and making sure my Marines are okay,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Bookwalter, 3/3 hospital corpsman, hopping from rock to rock over a frigid mountain stream. “It’s helping keep me busy, and I can keep good track of everyone in the cold weather if I keep moving.”

In the early morning light on the second day of the FEX a page directly from the Small Wars Manual, a sixty-year-old Marine Corps Publication that retains a fierce devotion for its timeless insights into military operations other than war, was brought to life. The Marines braved the frosted morning to load a team of four mules with enough meals ready to eat and water to re-supply an entire infantry line company.

“We’re actually using a lot of pack animals over in Afghanistan right now,” said Staff Sgt. Gil Sandoval, head wrangler, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif. The former sniper explained Marines will have to learn how to purchase and handle local animals once they got in country. “Part of learning about animal packing is learning how to improvise,” said Sandoval. “You never know exactly what you might run into – you might have to pack a camel or other animal you weren’t expecting to use.”

The mules, amenable enough to being loaded with up to one-third of their own body weight (often upward of 300 pounds a load), didn’t always go just where they were supposed to, giving the Marines a difficult time maneuvering. Commenting on the mules’ tenacity, Gunnery Sgt. O. Russell Lucas, motor-transport chief 3/3, compared his equine charges with some of his two-legged workers. “It’s just like working with Marines. They’re difficult and stubborn, but they get the job done every time,” said Lucas.

America’s Battalion plans to end its pre-deployment package with a battalion-level movement, simulating another real-world scenario.

Source: Marine Corps Base Hawaii


‘America’s Battalion’ returns to MCB Hawaii

By Pfc. Rich Mattingly | Marine Corps Base Hawaii | October 08, 2004

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii — The end of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment’s training at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., was marked by a visit from a well-written alumni, retired Lt. Col. Otto Lehrack and several other veterans of the Vietnam conflict who served with America’s Battalion.

The veterans greeted the Marines at MWTC’s hangar, the morning after they returned from their final, battalion field exercise that had the leathernecks moving from the high altitude of Landing Zone Albatross through rugged, mountain terrain and bitterly cold temperatures into an “Afghani” village for a cordon and search operation.

“I know it sounds cliché,” said Bruce Devert, a former rifleman with 3/3 during Vietnam, speaking to the assembly, “but it really is a deep honor to be able to be here with you today.”

Many of the veterans were full of emotion, recounting memories and describing what it felt like to be part of “the greatest battalion in the World’s Greatest Fighting Force.”

“What you will be doing will be the most important thing you will ever do,” said Lehrack, alluding to America’s current Global War on Terrorism. “This war is the most important conflict since the Second World War.”

The former leathernecks all shared with the gathered Marines lessons they learned on the battlefield and what they should remember when they deploy later this year.

Michael Harrington told the Marines they should certainly remember to write home and keep tabs on their family.

After the formation, several of the Marines of 3/3’s past shared more stories and advice over a “Warrior’s Dinner,” that had been prepared for them by the food service Marines of MWTC and 3/3.  Steak and shrimp and the subtle relief of another exercise ending safely and productively mixed with the stories of Dan Ryan, Harrington and Ron Cislo.  Lehrack, who has written two books about 3/3 and the Marine Corps’ involvement in Vietnam will publish a third book titled simply “America’s Battalion,” early next year.  The text will cover 3/3’s participation in Operation Desert Storm.  The author also hopes to record the experiences of the battalion in Afghanistan and compile them into another text.

America Battalion completed training and returned to Hawaii over the weekend.

Source: Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Categories: H&S Company, India Company, Kilo Company, Lima Company, Photographs, Twentynine Palms, Weapons Company | Tags: , , , , , ,

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