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MCAGCC commanding general drops in on Mountain Viper

By Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes | | February 9, 2008

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Brig. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., commanding general, said Mountain Viper is the best mountain warfare pre-deployment training package the Marine Corps has conducted to date.

 Spiese commented on the training during his visit to Hawthorne Army Depot in Hawthorne, Nev., Feb. 9, 2008, where the 21-day training evolution takes place.

 Also visiting the training grounds was Maj. Gen. Robert B. Neller, commanding general of 3rd Marine Division.

 “Since ATG (Advisor Training Group) has stood up, the training has continued to get better and better,” said Spiese.

 ATG, a MCAGCC-based unit, began its mission earlier this summer training Marine Corps transition teams and trainer teams to become proficient at advising and preparing foreign military units to become self-efficient forces.

 Embedded Trainer Teams made up of U.S. Marines and sailors with 3rd Marine Division have extended a commitment to spearhead deployments to Afghanistan to mentor, train and advise the Afghanistan National Army in combat operational techniques and procedures essential to fighting terrorism and insurgency.

 Spiese and Neller visited most of the training ranges during their tour. They met with some of the officers-in-charge of the ETTs and had a front row view of live training scenarios.

 “This is the right place to conduct the training,” said Spiese while observing a military operations in urban terrain facility in Hawthorne’s training area.

 Master Sgt. Donald Aschinger, Mountain Warfare Training Center and Mountain Viper operations chief, said the terrain at the Combat Center in Twentynine Palms doesn’t offer the same mountain characteristics as the mountains of Bridgeport, Calif., home of MWTC, and Hawthorne. According to host nation role-players, the mountains of the Eastern Sierra are very similar to those in Afghanistan.

 “The high desert mountains of eastern Sierra expose Marines to unexpected storms, rugged terrain, decreased helicopter lift capabilities, challenging communications and high altitudes that cause physiological effects on the body,” said Aschinger, a veteran mountain leader and a Post Falls, Idaho, native.

 The ETTs are currently executing situational training and mission rehearsal exercises, the final phase of the training package. Lt. Col. Michael Cuccio, officer-in-charge of ETT 2-6, agrees with the Spiese regarding the best Afghanistan pre-deployment training package to date.

 Cuccio, a Mahopac, N.Y., native, said Mountain Viper is very tedious training thanks to the great instruction and coaching done by ATG and Mountain Warfare Training Center instructors.

 The evolution concludes the training just weeks before the ETTs set foot in Afghanistan terrain.


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