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They never saw it coming--literally. By the time the explosions cracked the cold, quiet of the morning and smoked filled the spaces between the blinding snowflakes, the group's reaction was slow and numb. Usually calm and collected in the face of chaos, the team of doctors, physician's assistants (PA) and field medics found themselves confused; fumbling for any survival equipment they could put their hands on and scrambling down the mountainside for cover from the unexpected onslaught above.
Sniper fire and shouts bounced overhead. Gone were the warmth, comfort and predictability of their clinics and hospitals. Quite simply, they were out of their element.
It had become painfully clear to the participants that the Mountain Cold-Weather Medicine (MCWM) course they had signed up for had little to do with developing their medical expertise and everything to do with survival.
Encircled by the looming mountains peaks of the Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada, lies the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC). MCMWTC is a small, isolated training facility where Marines units and field medics come to experience mountaineering techniques and cold-weather combat operations on unforgiving terrain that ranges in elevation from 6,500 to 11,000 feet.
Normally the …