RECON CAMP, Kingdom of Thailand --
Royal Thai Reconnaissance Marines instructed their U.S. and South Korean brothers how to survive in an isolated jungle environment during a class here, Feb. 13.
In the 31st iteration of exercise Cobra Gold 2012, a multi-lateral training event where numerous countries in the Asia-Pacific region work together in a multitude of exercises, the jungle survival portion placed the Royal Thai Marines in the role of instructor while Company B., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Republic of Korea Marines were the pupils.
“The Thais are showing us a lot of tools as well as resources available to us in the jungle that we will be able to exploit to survive in that environment,” said 1st Lt. Zachary Duncan, platoon commander for first platoon, B. Co., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “This class is the first step in a succession of training we’ll be going through, the end result being that our eyes will be open to see the jungle environment as plentiful as it is.”
With hundreds of U.S., Thai and S. Korean Marines in a semi-circle around a presentation area, Sub-Lt. Pranom Yodrug, a Thai reconnaissance Marine, with the aid of a translator, outlined the wide variety of edible foliage and fruits there are to be found in the Thai wilderness and how to properly prepare each item. Following this, bamboo shoots fashioned into makeshift trays were passes around with cooked insects, further exemplifying the fact that there is more to eat in the jungle than fruit.
While the U.S. Marine Corps has various locations around multiple bases suitable for jungle survival training, it is not something every Marine will have the opportunity to benefit from. S. Korea is even at less of an advantage with the country being a cold-weather region, but the humidity and wildlife in the jungle setting is something every Thai Marine is familiar with.
“We’re originally stationed on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, which doesn’t have any jungles to train in,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron Lende, squad automatic weapon gunner with Co. B., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “The heavy humidity alone can cause rapid dehydration, so being here and having the Thais teach us these skills, which we may one day use, is valuable.”
The second part of the day’s instruction was on various traps and crude instruments to be made and utilized in the capturing of larger food opportunities. Examples were shown for catching fish and snaring lizards or other small animals.
The main attraction of the class, however, was the techniques of killing and field stripping chickens and cobras. Procedures for the quick capture and humane killing of both were demonstrated to the Marines, and volunteers from all sides practiced their hands at their newly-learned survival techniques.
“It may not be pretty, but in a situation where you must survive off the land, it is either you or the chicken,” said Yodrug. “That is why we are teaching the other Marines these skills, because they do not have the proper environments to regularly train in jungle survival. When we all combine forces again, everyone will know how to live in the jungle.”
As the survival instruction concluded, the U.S. and ROK Marines showed their appreciation to their Thai counterparts and asked for stories of jungle warfare. While current U.S. conflicts do not require jungle training, the skill set increases the tactical readiness of Marines.
“If I was in a jungle environment and some kind of resupply was lost, I would be able to live off the land until I was able to be resupplied,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Johnson, a rifelman with Co. B., BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “It might be unlikely, but it adds to our overall preparedness.”
Cobra Gold 2012 demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. and participating nations to increase interoperability and promote security and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.