BLACK RAPIDS TRAINING SITE, Alaska (Sept. 9, 2009) -- Members of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command are preparing for Afghanistan's rugged terrain by training in the wilds of Alaska.

Amid snow-dusted mountains and fog-shrouded peaks, military mountaineers of the Northern Warfare Training Center and the United States Marine Corps are conducting military alpine operations on the Black Rapids Training Site and surrounding Alaska Range.

The Marines are students in the training center's Assault Climbers Course, which will arm them with the knowledge to train, lead and win in unforgiving terrain and altitudes of more than 8,000 feet.

The Marines and Sailors are a part of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, and are a relatively new addition to the U.S. Special Operations Command. MARSOC consists of three battalions, with teams from the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion.

The 13 Marines and two Navy Corpsmen are being taught to negotiate vertical terrain, various forms of rappelling, casualty evacuation, glacial travel and crevasse rescue, along with several classes on subjects such as weather forecasting and avalanche awareness.

"This training is an absolute necessity to applicable units going into theatre," said Lt. Col. Matthew Trollinger, commander of the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion. "Opportunities such as this allow us the operational environment that we don't normally see in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It's critical to experience weather and climate along with other changing factors that may occur while conducting missions in this type of terrain."

The course, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 13, will culminate in several student-led alpine operations, including glacier travel, a 14-mile alpine movement and summiting several local peaks. All of the exercises will incorporate skills learned throughout the course; such as fixed lines, rope bridges, and mountain land navigation.

"I would recommend this course to other teams," said Capt. Jonathan Hayes of the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion. "The Basic Mountaineering Course gives you a base of working knowledge, and the Assault Climber Course brings us to more of an instructor role to train others, so whether it is internal or external, we are all the same across the board."

The NWTC conducts cold weather and mountaineering training for individuals and small units. The Basic Mountaineering Course provides the fundamental skills required for mountain operations. Seven of the Marines took part in the two-week BMC before attending ACC.

The Northern Warfare Training Center's remote Black Rapids Training Site, about 120 miles from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, also offers The Cold Weather Leadership Course, in which servicemembers learn basics of operating in environments of -30 degrees Fahrenheit or below. The center can also train units to operate in cold weather and mountaineering at altitudes of 10,000 feet or higher.