Royal Marines are training in the world’s most extreme cold weather in order to join the cream of the elite commandoes.
The troops are in the winter wasteland of Porsangamoen in northern Norway on the latest Royal Marines mountain leader course, learning how to conduct and survive on the cold weather warfare course.
This is the latest phase of an arduous nine-month course which has seen them conducting climbing instruction in Cornwall, and mountain movement in the Welsh and Scottish mountains before moving to northern Norway to conduct role-specific Arctic training.
This week, with the temperatures down to -28C the exhausted men have to keep on the move on skis while carrying heavy equipment after a disturbed night under canvas in blizzards among other hazards of the hostile terrain.
Instructors; Colour Sergeant Mick Cowe, said “The Royal Marines Mountain Leaders are primarily instructors, and the mountain and Arctic warfare subject matter experts to 3 Commando Brigade and defence in general.
“As well as overseeing and supervising working in the mountains and cliff assaults for follow-on commando troops they are the reconnaissance and information gathering experts for the brigade”.
Unlike civilian mountaineers the Royal Marines Mountain Leaders carry all the equipment they need to survive in these harsh conditions, as well as their military equipment including weapons, radios and specialist stores for their unique role. They are fully equipped to conduct and set up obstacle crossing such as raging rivers in the Scottish highlands or frozen water falls within the Arctic Circle.
The mountain leader course deployed to Norway in early January to conduct their novice ski survival, cold weather warfare courses along with testing tactical exercises, which will cumulate in Exercise Norge Finale. This exercise will test all their new skills whilst crossing the barren, mountainous region of Finnmark mainly on skis and snowshoes with full equipment covering distances of up to 70 miles.
Former Mountain Leader Chief instructor; Colour Sergeant Bill Billingsley, said: “Whilst the skills that are taught on the course have changed and adapted such as the introduction of urban climbing, the core elements of the Mountain Leader course remains the same.”
3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines are the specialists in mountain and cold weather warfare for UK armed forces. The mountain leaders are responsible for training the rest of 3 Commando Brigade in this unforgiving environment, and that is why the course is so demanding. Students on the long and arduous course are tested daily.
All the Royal Marines course members are either corporals or captains and are all volunteers to conduct the mountain leader course and join this specialisation. The Royal Netherlands Marine Corps send officers to the mountain leader course to train alongside the Royal Marines enabling joint working and standards.
Major Jon Lindsay the Officer Commanding Mountain Leader and Combat Intelligence Company said, “Porsangamoen is an excellent training area for Mountain Leader’s conducting Cold Weather Warfare due to the harsh environment. Norway is an incredibly demanding environment which challenges men and machine on a daily basis. It makes men and unit cohesion incredibly robust. Many cite Royal Marines success in the Falkland Islands due to previous Norway deployments. Train hard! Fight easy!”
The men of the mountain leaders’ course have set their sights on being a part of the lead element of Commando landing forces. As with most courses in the Royal Marines the training is just the beginning, fulfilling the role and continuing the high standards is always the hardest part.