Marines, soldiers master jungle leaders' course
CAMP GONSALVES, OKINAWA, Japan -- "We created the jungle leaders’ course from the ground up,” said Sgt. Peter C. Gentry, an instructor at the Jungle Warfare Training Center. “There has not been one in 12 years, since before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are basically taking our package from the basic jungle skills course and expanding it to the point that when Marines leave here, they are able to teach these capabilities.”
The JWTC, Camp Gonsalves, hosted 23 Marine and Army noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers and commissioned officers for the jungle leaders’ course June 2-30.
The Marines were with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, and 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, under the unit deployment program. The soldiers were with 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division, based in Hawaii.
During the course, the service members conducted training across the full spectrum of jungle warfare including survival techniques, patrolling, tactical rope suspension techniques, raids, and escape and evasion.
“We start with an immediate raid,” said Gentry. “We give them all of the information and have them plan and execute the raid. We then see what their baseline knowledge and skills are. Moving on from the raid, we progress into movement through the jungle … including hasty and cliff rappels. We also fast-rope from helicopters and MV-22B Ospreys.”
The participants fast-rope into thick jungle and conduct land navigation based on a scenario that continues throughout the training, according to Gentry.
During training, the service members learned various lessons about surviving in an inhospitable environment, including maintaining stealth.
“In the jungle, everything is completely secretive,” said Gentry. “You are not talking when you are patrolling. Everything is completely silent. We see guys come in here not knowing they are being loud and watch them progress from being like an elephant trumping through the forest to a ‘jungle ninja.’”
The importance of maintaining a low profile stood in contrast to some of the operational principles developed for desert environments.
“In the jungle, a position is not occupied more than 24 hours and it is completely secretive in nature,” said Gentry. “No one can know you are there and after the 24 hours, you are gone. However, in Iraq and Afghanistan everyone knew exactly where we were, and we trained with that in mind.”
The Marines and soldiers learned to work together during the training, and both gained a valuable perspective on how other services conducted operations.
The rugged environment was physically challenging, testing the service members’ ability to navigate cliffs and ravines in a thick jungle.
“You are not going to get these elevation changes anywhere else but on Okinawa,” said Cpl. Geovanny V. Bautista, an infantryman with Headquarters Company, 3rd Bn., 6th Marines. “The terrain out here is treacherous. For instance, some places you have to traverse 200 meters down cliffs and then climb right back up 200 meters just to move a straight-line distance of 150 meters total.”
The service members spent the duration of the 28-day course in field-expedient shelters of their own construction or at a bivouac site sheltered in two-man tents.
“We wanted them to get more exposure to the jungle, so they stayed out there the entire time,” said Gentry. “If they don’t spend the time out in the jungle, it defeats the purpose. If they have to spend the night out in the jungle, it really lets them know that they are here for the whole time and that they have to incorporate everything they learned.”
The 100th Bn. soldiers intend to use the knowledge and experience they gained to take advantage of jungle training areas near the battalion’s duty station in Hawaii.
“There is no official (Army jungle warfare) school, so the battalion commander wanted us to come over here and do some training with professionals who really know the jungle,” said 1st Lt. Jeremy S. Munoz, an infantry officer with 100th Bn. “This year, we were going to do some big movements in the jungle with all of our weapons systems and all five of our companies, but it just wasn’t feasible.
“None of us were certified with all the rope systems for movement or to maneuvering large elements through a jungle environment … but it will be feasible now,” said Munoz.
The Marines and soldiers gained confidence in their jungle warfare skills and expect to return to their units and disseminate the knowledge they acquired.
“Our first couple of maneuvers we were a little slow, but we really picked it up,” said Munoz. “We learned quite a bit about the jungle.”