Special Forces Training
Special Forces units have historically trained for cold weather, mountain, and winter warfare operations. While all groups train for this specialized evironment the Special Forces group most experienced with mountaineering is the 10th Special Forces Group based on its historical mission during the Cold War on the European continent. In the past decade, members of other Special Forces Groups have worked in mountaineous areas during the Afghan War.
Army Mountain Warfare School (AMWS). The AMWS, part of the Fort Benning training establishment, is located at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, Vermont. This location is also known as Camp Ethan Allen Training Site (CEATS). See the Fort Benning website for the Army Mountain Warfare School (AMWS). The Army Mountain Warfare School (AMWS) has access to the Ethan Allen Firing Range where live range firing can be conducted. The training site was established sometime around the World War II era for the training of mountain troops in skiing - see the Hurley Hill Training Center. There is a Basic Military Mountaineer Summer Course and one for Winter as well. Both are 14 days long. There is also a summer and winter Assault Climber Course - both 14 days long.
Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC).
This school is located at Fort
Wainwright, Alaska. It offers a Cold Weather Orientation Course, Cold
Weather Leaders Course, Basic Mountaineering Course, Assault Climbers
Course, and a Mountain Warfare Orientation Course.
USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center.
The Marines mountain warfare school is located in Pickel Meadow,
California. It has 54,000 acres of mountainous high altitude terrain at
elevations between 7,000 and 11,000 feet. The Exercise Mountain
Warrior prepares units for OEF deployments with a 21 day summer and
23 day winter training package. The Mountain Viper exercise
provides mountain training to advisor teams heading to mountainous regions
of Afghanistan. There are various other courses available at the training
center as well to include the Summer and Winter Mountain Leaders course.
As in the realm of winter warfare, the 10th Special Forces Group is considered quite accomplished in mountain operations as well. While the other groups do train in mountaineering and have designated mountain teams 10th SFGA benefits from training areas located near their bases (current and historical) and a mission on the European continent where one finds many mountaneous areas as well.
Some of the schools that 10th SFGA has sent its teams to include many in the European armies. The German Army offered the German Herresbergfuhrer Schule (or Military Mountain Guide School). Other schools included the Austrian Winter Camp and Italian Alpini Course. 1st Bn 10th Special Forces Group stationed in Stuttgart, Germany continues to enjoy this access to European mountaineering schools.
The USAJKFSWCS Mountaineering Program consists of three different levels of training (as of August 2011). The Basic Course (Level III) is where 15 basic tasks are learned - including navigating in mountainous terrain, rope commands, transportation of casualties, and rappelling techniques. In the Senior Course (Level II) students learn the basic fundamentals of rock climbing. There are 17 tasks taught in the Senior Course including setting up belay and rappelling points, rescue systems, and basic care and procedures for pack animals (mules). The Master Course (Level I) is the winter alpine stage of the mountaineering program. Some of the tasks covered in the Master Course include glacier movement, avalanche awareness, crevasse rescue, bivouac considerations, and ice climbing. Training locations are in Colorado, Alaska and other locations around the country. View pictures of the USAJKFSWCS Mountaineering Program here, here, and here.
Infantry Small-Unit Mountain Operations, ATTP 3-21.50, Department of the Army, February 2011 (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Military Mountaineer Course Knot Guide, Army Mountain Warfare School, Camp Ethan Allen, Vermont, December 2010 (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Military Mountaineering, FM 3-97.61, 26 August 2002. Purchase on Amazon.com here.
Military Mountaineering, TC 3-97.61 (FM 3-97.61) is now released as of July 2012. Available on AKO and soon on Amazon.com.
Mountain Operations, FM 3-97.6, 28 November 2000.
Mountain and Cold Weather Warfighting: Critical Capability for the 21st Century, Monograph by LT Col Scott W. Pierce, USMC. Published by School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), USA CGSC, AY 2008. (Adobe Acrobat file here).
Training for Mountain and Winter Warfare, Study No. 23, by Capt. Thomas P. Govan, Army Ground Forces, 1 September 1945. (Adobe Acrobat file here on dtic.mil).
There are numerous sets of mountaineering equipment. Special Forces has the Special Operations Forces Mountaineer Equipment Set. Regular Army units have the High Angle Military Mountaineering (HAMM) Kit, Assault Climber Team Kit, and the Snow and Ice Mobility Kit.
Briefing on the Army Mountaineering Kits and Team Stove by Natick Soldier
Systems Center, 12 May 2011.
March 10, 2014. "New Moutaineering Kits issued to Army Mountain Warfare School". DVIDS. The new Army Mountaineering Kit (AMK) has been issued to the Army Mountain Warfare School (AMWS) in Jericho, Vermont.
February 24, 2014. "Soldiers getting new mountain climbing gear from Army". Stars and Stripes.
April 4, 2013. "Special Forces scale frozen peaks". Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group. 10th SFGA doing mountain training.
October 31, 2012. Taking the High Ground. Army.mil. A news article about mountaineering equipment development at Natick Laboratories.
_______, "Training for the Cold", NCO Journal, Vol. 21, No.3,
"Army Ranger School Mountain Phase". A video depicting some of the
mountaineering skills taught in Ranger School. October 2010.
"Summer Mountaineering Course". Video on NWTC, July 25, 2011.
"Battle Cold and Conquer Mountains" by U.S. Army Northern Warfare Training
Center, January 6, 2012.
"Big Picture: U.S. Army Cold Weather and Mountain School". A historical
video (circa 1974) by the U.S. Army, 28 minutes long.
"AMWS Mountain Sniper Course". Video providing photos of course.
"AMWS Basic Course". Video shows photos from March 2006 course.
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