By Cpl. William JacksonApril 22, 2013
MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif. -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, competed in a biathlon, a sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting, during the Scout Skiers Course held at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., April 3.
Before the Marines began the biathlon, they completed a 10 hour movement through the snow-covered Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, from Landing Zone Robin to Range 1100. For most of the Marines, it was their first time on skis.
"All this week we've been teaching them route selection, avalanche avoidance and how to ski," said Staff Sgt. Richard Sweetman, chief instructor, Scout Skiers Course. "They find the route that a company or battalion can get up to get to their objectives. Scout skiers are able to get up on ridges to watch their areas. Mainly, (the course) is about route selection for the companies to get them out of avalanche areas."
The three week course pushes Marines to their limits and teaches the basics of scout skiing so they can go back to the units and serve as pathfinders during 2/3's final Mountain Exercise.
"We are constantly on the skis so we're going to teach them about the terrain and the dangers of avalanches," said Lance Cpl. Luis Villalpando, assistant platoon leader, Company F, 2/3. "They should always be pushing themselves to strive for success. It's a mental game."
During the biathlon the Marines skied more than four miles and fired their weapons in the standing, kneeling and prone positions. The 10 hour movement and four hours of sleep in a 48 hour timeframe was a means of inducing stress before they stepped up to the firing line.
"They're doing pretty good," Sweetman said. "They're getting beat up just from the elevation from Hawaii to here. They've got a good attitude about it."
As the Marines took a day to compete against each other, their main goal was to be comfortable in a stressful environment. Every moment counts towards survival.
"I've learned how to survive using the fundamentals," Villalpando said. "Once you get the basics down, it gets a little easier. It's tough, especially when you're on skis. It's definitely a challenge."