News: Battle on a windswept hill: The ‘Island Warriors’ chill and conquer
Story by Lance Cpl. Suzanna Lapi
MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER, BRIDGEPORT, Calif. – “Contact front! Contact front!” yelled Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, during their culminating training event in a mock battle against Combat Logistics Battalion 3 at Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., Apr. 15.
Pfc. Anthony Chea, a rifleman and native of Draper, Utah, talked about his company’s strategy.
“We are taking the mountain from our enemy,” Chea said. “First platoon went initially to conduct reconnaissance. They returned to the company and we went out to suppress, assess, and kill.”
The “Island Warriors” took cover and returned fire, using blank rounds, as they attempted to gain foothold of Landing Zone Woody from CLB-3.
The echo of their firing rifles cracked in the chilly mountain air as the cold breeze broke against their wind burnt faces. Their snowshoes crunched through the snow as they advanced on the opposing forces position. The Island Warriors continued to suppress the enemy in icy battle until they successfully took the mountain.
Capt. Justin Lokkesome, the Echo Co. commander and native of Columbus, Ga., said mountain warfare training is beneficial for his Marines because of learning snow mobility and understanding how topography influences their plans. He said it also benefits them beyond purposes for deployment.
“This training is team building for the company and battalion,” Lokkesome said. “We learn the Marines' inner and individual characters once we get into harsh environments like this. This is like nothing we have ever trained in before, so the rigors of leading a company is a learning experience, for all of us.”
As Pfc. Cody Rader, a rifleman and native of Sacramento, Calif., provided overwatch for first platoon, he talked about the training he conducted and his experience at MWTC.
“It’s cold, but it’s good training,” Rader said. “If it sucks out here, that means it’s good training because all the movements we have been doing means we get better at hiking and overcoming the cold. We are well prepared now. The worst was sleeping in the snow, but my body got used to the cold. However, we skied everyday and got paid to do it.”
Lance Cpl. Adrian Romero, a rifleman and native of Laguna Reservoir, N.M., said he deployed to Afghanistan, and conducting training is key for deployments.
“During training, you make all your mistakes and learn from them,” Romero said. “You know what to do and what not to do on deployment, and things run a lot smoother. Everything comes into play. In a mountainous environment like this, it affects your endurance. Cold weather affects your morale and movement, and it can demoralize. But you apply training and start moving, you forget about it.”
Chea said he learned a lot about himself and his fellow Marines during the month long training he conducted at MWTC.
“I’ve learned that weather conditions affects how your squad moves as a team and how you move individually,” Chea said. “The speed of our movements is limited by the snow, and it gets difficult when we operate with specific objectives. Hiking mountains with skis on is very slippery, and when you fall you feel like you’re going to fall off the mountain. But it’s beneficial for us because we are able to experience a different battle environment. I also got closer to fellow Marines through our struggles here.”