MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif. -- After more than one year without a unit completing a full "summer package," Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, some of whom have spent nearly two months at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., completed their training package Sept. 21 and returned home to the Combat Center.The battalion began MWTC’s summer package as a whole in late August and had unusually large air support for their final exercises."Three-seven is a very strong battalion and they did a great job hitting all the wickets while they were up here," said Gunnery Sgt. James Disbro, MWTC chief instructor for unit operations. "They also were able to get support from a number of air units which was impressive."Unlike most units who have completed these packages in the past, 3/7 called for actual close air support from F/A-18D "Hornets," AV-8B "Harriers," AH-1W "Cobras" and UH-1N "Hueys" from Marine Corps Air Stations Miramar, Calif., and Yuma, Calif., and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.The California Army National Guard also flew in a CH-47 "Chinook" from Stockton, Calif., to transport Marines for the exercise."The Marines who gave us air support deserve a lot of props because it’s very difficult to come up here," said Lt. Col. Roger B. Turner Jr., 3/7 commanding officer. "That really enhanced our training and our ability to exercise the full spectrum of ops in this type of environment. "To be able to have the extra assets we would have in a real fight here really enhanced our training and those guys deserve a lot of credit," he continued. "We also had the California Army National Guard here to let us do helo-borne assaults which we have not done for a long time."Dozens of Marines were sent up as an advanced party in August to learn crucial skills, which in many ways were similar to what their counterparts would learn but was much more in depth. "The Marines who came up early learned how to set the things up which the battalion later trained to use," said Disbro. "They learned to tie and set up a rope bridge, where other Marines would only learn to cross it."Some Marines were schooled in advanced rock climbing techniques in the Assault Climber’s Course, where they spent countless hours learning knots and ties as well as traversing rock faces hundreds of feet tall.Other courses of instruction for the advanced party included rappelling lanes, survival, using mules to haul heavy gear over rough terrain and military mountaineering.During 3/7’s first days in Bridgeport, Marines all learned to climb, patrol, rappel both day and night, with and without full packs, cross expanses, rivers and rope bridges, evacuate casualties from a cliff, and survive and operate in the rough terrain.In addition to the physical skills learned, one of the most valuable assets Bridgeport offered 3/7 was the opportunity to come together as a unit and hone their small unit leadership skills, said Turner.One obvious challenge for 3/7 during their training was adjusting to the mountainous region and high elevation. "Overcoming the terrain has been a challenge for the Marines," said Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Lopez, Company L gunnery sergeant. "I would say more than half have never trained in any environment outside of Twentynine Palms or been to Iraq. So I think it’s a new experience for most everyone. This training really focuses on the squad leaders and team leaders, and I think that has brought the unit much closer together."The package ended with a three-day final exercise which was a battalion-level operation to eliminate a simulated hostile force from the area. Marines of Company K played the guerilla-style aggressors as other companies fought to flush them out. Marines carried their gear on their backs and had to use natural water sources while they covered more that 15 miles up and down the steep mountainsides.As 3/7 prepares to deploy to Iraq for the fourth time next year, many new Marines are filling the ranks and Iraq veterans are taking charge in higher leadership billets. "I wish we could have held off on this training until we had even more junior Marines here," said Staff Sgt. Robert Warfield, platoon commander, 3rd Platoon, Company L. "A lot of the Marines have already had a deployment or been with an infantry unit. It would have been that much better to have a lot of Marines right from the School of Infantry so they could start working with the senior Marines and work on their skills. Not just the mountain skills but the amazing team building that goes with it here."