Marines hone their survival skills in cold-weather training

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Company A, Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion stationed on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., ventured to the Rocky Mountains for winter survival training, aided by instructors from the 460th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation.

The intelligence company spent three days learning basic survival skills in mountainous, cold-weather conditions.

Because of their primary duties as intelligence support, these Marines get fewer opportunities to practice their field skills. In this case, the field skills were less military-oriented, and more focused on how to survive and thrive in unforgiving conditions.

“This unit in particular is always behind the fence working on computers, so we want them to remember that they are Marines and they’re expected to be able to do their job and also perform as Marines, which generally means some type of field duty,” said Master Sgt. Brian Geraghty, COA/MCSB senior enlisted advisor.

Not only does the training serve potential combat-readiness purposes, but while being stationed near some of the roughest mountain terrain in the U.S., these skills can be used for personal advantage as well.

“Many of our guys go to the mountains for recreation, so a big part of this exercise was to help them understand and be prepared if something were to happen while they were up there to increase their chance of survival,” said Geraghty.

The trek started with a 2 1/2 mile snowshoe to the base camp, followed by instructions from William Link III, Outdoor Rec adventure programmer, on how to properly set up camp and choose a safe location to secure the tents.

“I think getting the Marines out of their homes and into the mountains helped build a more cohesive team,” said Link. “They were able to build off of each other’s strengths and become overall more effective.”

The Marines were taught fire-starting techniques, basic medical treatment and water filtration. In preparation of real-world incidents, they were able to get their hands dirty while practicing search-and-rescue avalanche training and building snow shelters.

These skills are crucial in improving their capability to support themselves and each other in a cold-weather atmosphere, whether at home or abroad.

“What made this group different was that I was able to be tougher on them because I knew they could handle it,” said Link. “They powered through all the struggles they might not have been expecting.”

Survival situations in frigid, snowy conditions become more difficult due to a constant struggle to stay warm, hydrated and energized. But since they earned the label of being called “Marines”, Link knew he could be tougher on the group.

“This exercise was to create those situations where they feel uncomfortable,” said Capt. David Rubio, COA/MCSB command officer. “To realize they’re Marines, and even though their mission is very administrative, at the drop of a hat, or dropping of a bomb, Marines can be sent forward often to the worst places on the planet to deal with the worst of people.”

In addition, Rubio highlighted that no matter their duty, there is still a tactical side to being a Marine; even administrative Marines can find themselves clearing rooms in Afghanistan.

“Marines must be prepared to respond in any condition,” said Rubio. “External factors like heat and cold cannot contribute to ill-conduct or poor decision making. This is just a reminder that they’re Marines and they won’t always be working in an office setting.”