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3/6 Kilo learns tough lessons from mountain warfare training

US Marine Corps News

5/6/2009 By Lance Cpl. John Faria, II MEF

CAMP DAWSON, W.Va. — What you don't know can hurt you.

That's the lesson Marines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, learned during mountain warfare training, here, April 23.

Company K was tasked with performing a company-level movement between two landing zones, but what they didn't know was that 11 insurgent role-players were waiting to ambush them.

"The purpose of this training is to create friction, and force the unit to work together to solve problems," said 1st Lt. Robert Schotter, the battalion intelligence officer who observed the training. "The scenario let them handle an assault, let them see the problems, assess casualties, and then have to deal with all the consequences."

It began with a simple but costly mistake; the lead platoon missed a radio message ordering them to stop. They ended up two kilometers from the main body when the enemy unexpectedly opened fire from atop a cliff. The Marines were on their own against an entrenched enemy of almost equal size.

"This terrain is a defender's dream," Schotter said. "We're using this training to paint the picture that this area is easy to defend, so Marines need to send a larger force than usual."

First platoon snapped into action and advanced to contact with the enemy under heavy fire. However, they were slowed by the heavy packs they carried as they sprinted across the broken landscape.

This experience taught them how, in extreme terrain, two kilometers or a heavy pack can make the difference between victory and defeat.

The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, explained to the Marines how that kind of first-hand knowledge is exactly why they came to Camp Dawson.

"You did great, but even when you do well, you're going to deal with casualties,” Christmas said. "You need to learn how to handle them."

The whole company gathered together as the sun set to learn as first platoon shared the day's experience.

"The only way we improve is to learn from the mistakes we make and the mistakes of our buddies," Christmas said. "Share what you saw so we can all learn from it."

Lessons were shared, questions were answered, and in the end, the Marines of Company K, said they were better for it.


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