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Marines prepare for mountain combat

Thousands of Marines train in the rugged California mountains each year.
Thousands of Marines train in the rugged California mountains each year.  

SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS, California (CNN) -- More than 10,000 U.S. Marines train at the Mountain Warfare Training Center each year, and those mountain assault techniques could be particularly important following the September 11 attacks.

The center, in a remote, mountainous part of eastern California, has rugged terrain similar to what U.S. forces could encounter in Afghanistan.

The training is designed to simulate real battle conditions and teach the troops to operate on steep hillsides that reach 14,000 feet.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports on a military training center that is similar to the Afghan mountains (October 6)

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"This mountain range in particular is very, very loose rock. It's all shale, which means every foot you put down, it doesn't stay there. It will go about two feet below you," said Kevin Dite, a commando with a British Royal Marine unit that trained alongside U.S. Marines. The joint operation gave British troops an opportunity to train under conditions that are not available in the United Kingdom.

The Marines train day and night, often in complete darkness. Their movements are tracked at a high-tech mobile center that uses an encoded, digital satellite system to communicate with troops in the field and with headquarters.

"These are tremendous tools, they give us tremendous capabilities," said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. David Fuquea. He said the technology does have drawbacks.

"Like anything, it is susceptible to viruses and also, I have to keep a generator outside running all the time. Five years ago doing this, I didn't have that noise signature and I could do everything without making a lot of noise," Fuquea said.

During a recent training exercise, troops from the First Battalion Sixth Marine Regiment and British Marines demonstrated an assault up a 300-foot cliff.

The U.S. military said the training is routine and neither unit has been given deployment orders, but the troops said they are ready.

"Our forces are well-equipped for any kind of terrain to fight in, including the terrain that may be in Afghanistan or anywhere around the world," U.S. Marine Capt. Brad Young said.


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