BRIDGEPORT, Calif. – More than 200 Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) and U. S. Naval Academy (USNA) midshipmen felt a burn after hiking up one of the many elevated paths in the Sierra Nevada mountain range at the U. S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) on July 13, 2015.
It burned, a good kind of burn; the kind of sting that runs deep in your muscles as you take one step after the other. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot hitting the ground on soft, damp earth, sometimes rocks or grassy meadows. It wasn't long before the brisk cold of the morning was long forgotten.
On this particular July morning, the midshipmen had just embarked on the first day of an annual summer training course at MWTC. Hundreds of future Navy and Marine Corps officers spend summer taking part in their Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) here in the high Sierras.
Midshipman 2nd Class David Yagy, 20, from Amityville, N. Y., a management program student and member of the Norwich University Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) unit, scales a rock face in the Leavitt Training Area of Toiyabe National Forest during the top rope climbing portion of NROTC Mountain Warfare Training at the U. S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) here, July 13, 2015. Mountain warfare training is part of the Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) each summer for nine days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is offered to NROTC and U. S. Naval Academy 2nd class midshipmen, many who are Marine-option and will be future Marine Corps officers. (U. S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Anthony Sousa)
Situated high in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, MWTC is one of the Corps' most remote bases and has a history of challenging units and individuals that range from Marine Corps infantry units to foreign special warfare personnel. Over nine days (July 13-22), NROTC and USNA second class midshipmen would also be challenged mentally, physically and morally.
The training evolution was designed to give “everybody an opportunity to learn about themselves, face challenges, learn about how to overcome those challenges, [and] at the end of the day really... set [them] up for success,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Jarman, the commanding officer for the evolution.
This year in particular, the midshipmen endured more hiking than previous years. For several of the midshipmen, the hikes acted as a gut check showing them how the effects of altitude are not bias to a person's fitness level. However, the training was also designed to acclimatize the midshipmen over the nine days.
The first two hikes were light-loaded day packs to the Leavitt Training Area. At LTA the midshipmen learned skills that included river crossing, gorge crossing, repelling, and rock climbing. This provided a particular mental challenge, yet rewarding opportunity, for some midshipmen who grapple with a fear of heights.
“Next time that they get pushed into something that they feel uncomfortable with, and they're getting that trigger in their mind, ‘This is what I think my limits are,'” said Marine Corps Master Sgt. Matthew James, senior enlisted advisor for the training. “The midshipmen will think, ‘What they're trying to push me to is probably where my limits are really at.'”
In the following days, the midshipmen hiked progressively to higher elevations. At Landing Zone (LZ) Quail they learned about basic survival including how to build shelters, different ways to safely start a camp fire, purifying water, setting snares and traps, and signaling. The next day at LZ Penguin, they practiced land navigation and night navigation in small squads.
According to many, the most rewarding experience for the midshipmen was on Sunday morning when they hiked to Lost Cannon Peak. James said it was training that MWTC had never conducted as part of their NROTC training and no midshipmen had ever been through until now. With an elevation of 11,050 feet, the hike up to the peak tested the midshipmen's physical strength and mental toughness.
James said MWTC works to provide exposure and understanding of things such as squad bay procedures, formation procedures, accountability, uniformity, and working as a team in order to prepare them. Through this, the midshipmen can gauge their strengths and weaknesses.
“The staff's hard work proved to be successful at the end of it all as they saw the midshipmen improve their cohesion in just days,” James said.
For several Midshipmen, the exposure being around their peers was another motivating factor.
Midshipman 2nd Class Ariana P. Parra, 20, from Chicago, a sociology program student and member of the University of Illinois Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) unit, scales a rock face in the Leavitt Training Area of Toiyabe National Forest during the top rope climbing portion of NROTC Mountain Warfare Training at the U. S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) here, July 13, 2015. Mountain warfare training is part of the Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) each summer for nine days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is offered to NROTC and U. S. Naval Academy 2nd class midshipmen, many who are Marine-option and will be future Marine Corps officers. (U. S. Marine Corps photo courtesy MWTC)
“It was just nice to be able to see what we will become, or what we can become,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Sophie Holmes, from the University of New Mexico, and was one of the 210 midshipmen who participated that came from 67 different NROTC units around the country, plus the US Naval Academy.
“They really care about us as people (at MWTC) and they want us to do well,” Holmes said. “It wasn't just a yell fest, it was, ‘Hey this is how you need to do things,' and ‘Hey we're going to take care of you while you do it.' It exceeded my expectations.”
The NROTC program is overseen by Rear Adm. Stephen C. Evans, commander of Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill. NROTC was established to develop midshipmen mentally, morally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, loyalty and Navy core values in order to commission college graduates as naval officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the naval service and have a potential for future development in mind and character so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.
NSTC oversees 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy, as well as the Navy's Citizenship Development programs. NSTC includes Recruit Training Command (RTC), NROTC at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command (OTC) Newport, and Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps )NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
By Midshipmen Second Class Josefina Mancilla, Joseph Aiello and Jordan Schultz
Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs
Navy Media Content Services
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article