PJ Completes USMC Winter Mountain Leaders Course

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class William Turnbull
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

A pararescueman from DM’s own Guardian Angel Formal Training Unit, 68th Rescue Squadron, completed the U.S. Marine Corps’ Winter Mountain Leaders Course that is designed to train U.S. and allied ground forces in winter mountain maneuvering and warfare tactics at the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, April 15, 2022.

That PJ was Tech. Sgt. Cody Miller, 68th RQS Formal Training Unit Instructor, who was the only U.S. Air Force member to attend the course along with 28 other service members from the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and Allied Forces.

“The U.S. Marine Corps’ Winter Mountain Leaders Course is dedicated to teaching students at all different levels of experience and backgrounds in winter mountain operations, instructing them on how to effectively maneuver and lead a team through winter mountain terrain,” Miller said. “We started with 28 people, and after the initial fitness test and the first few weeks of the course seven people were dropped from the training.”

Miller learned about the course through a 68th RQS civil servant, a retired U.S. Marine, and volunteered for this intense high altitude course.

“Once we were able to find the initial point of contact, they connected us with the right people at the training center, ultimately securing us a spot,” Miller said.

Even with the limited amount of slots per class, Miller was selected to help spread the course’s knowledge to the U.S. Air Force.

The course capitalized on aspects of Combat Search and Recovery in mountainous terrain. It covered downhill skiing and snow shoeing techniques that reduce the time it takes to reach a patient and/or retrieve lost equipment substantially. Furthermore, participants learned firsthand the difficulty of moving a patient and equipment through thick snowy terrain.

Another part of the Winter Mountain Leaders Course was hypothermia training. Miller and the other participants spent time in below freezing water temperatures ranging from 15-30 degrees Fahrenheit. This was to show them how to identify the early signs of hypothermia, which was closely monitored by experienced staff, as well as local Emergency Medical Technicians during the training.

“At the very least if you have one person from an operational unit attend this training, I think it is a huge benefit to that unit overall,” Miller said. “Especially being stationed in Tucson, Arizona, it’s difficult to get cold weather training and experience for the PJs stationed here.”

Miller plans to pass along this training to his students at the Guardian Angel Formal Training Unit in order for them to become more proficient in snowy, mountainous conditions. A benefit that ensures that the U.S. and its Allies are always prepared to see a mission through to the end, regardless of the conditions, ready for the future fight anytime, anywhere.