Thai, U.S. soldiers learn jungle survival skills
By Lance Cpl. Jose Lujano
| | February 19, 2013
PHITSANULOK, Thailand --
Royal Thai Army Special Forces members taught other Thai and U.S. soldiers about jungle survival during a class Feb. 17 at Camp Akatosrot, during exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
Thai and U.S. soldiers received a unique jungle survival class involving nutrition, medicine and poisonous snake awareness critical to surviving in a jungle environment.
“This class will benefit any soldier who might train or operate in jungles in the future,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel A. Hernandez, an infantryman with Baker Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “We learned that in the jungle, three days without water or three weeks without food is extremely dangerous — possibly lethal.”
In the jungle logical reasoning is key to survival.
“Fighting to survive in the jungle is like every other battle; it is first lost or won in the mind,” said Hernandez. “Survivors find ways to keep their spirits up and never let the situation beat them.”
The first part of the class involved learning to live off the land from the various types of food sources available in the jungle.
“The jungle provides a number of animals and some are common to us like birds, fish and even some reptiles,” said Hernandez. “However if you’re not a good hunter there are smaller prey you can eat like insects, such as grasshoppers, cockroaches, scorpions, larva, worms and beetles.”
Nonetheless, insects and animals are not the only source of food. Vegetation also provides ample foods for a soldier to survive on.
Exerting unnecessary energy hunting in a survival scenario is not using good logic when plants are the easiest source of food to acquire in the jungle, according Thai Special Forces Master Sgt. 2nd Class Rittichai Soontorn, an instructor with the jungle survival class.
“The best way to find out the difference between edible plants and poisonous ones is by testing the extract on your skin to see its reaction,” said Soontorn. “Regardless, vivid, bright-red berries and plants with a milky sap should be avoided.”
During the second part of the class, Thai Special Forces members demonstrated successful ways of attaining drinking water, many in unexpected places.
“We learned how to get water from nonpoisonous vines, banana trees and tree trunks,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Nelman R. Cuevas, an infantryman with Baker Company. “However, drinking contaminated water could result in life-threatening problems in the jungle. If there's no water, drinking blood could be used, but as a last resort.”
Not only can plants be useful as a source of food but can also be used for protection against mosquitoes.
“I learned that malaria has caused more deaths than all the wars in history combined,” said Cuevas. “By applying eucalyptus oil or camphor tree sap, (this) acts like bug spray.
While proper nutrition and medicine play an important role in the jungle, there are other factors soldiers need to be cautious about. There are 180 types of snakes in the Kingdom of Thailand, seven of which are poisonous.
The Thai Special Forces members showcased a number of snakes, such as the famous king cobra, snouted cobra, spitting cobra, a python and various nonpoisonous snakes.
“From the class we can now begin to understand the behavior of poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes, but also how to respond if we ever encounter one,” said Cuevas. “We experienced the snake’s reaction to movement; we learned by staying still you can avoid an attack.”
During the class, U.S. soldiers were given the opportunity to participate in a local Thai custom of drinking cobra blood. Instructors explained that this is also a source of liquid when no other water source is available.
“The training provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn new skills, tasting different jungle edibles, and participating in a unique Thai custom,” said Cuevas. “This training can save our lives one day.”
The students from the Royal Thai Army are with 7th Regiment, 7th Division, 3rd Region.
Joint and multinational training conducted during exercise Cobra Gold 2013 is vital to maintaining readiness and interoperability for all participating military forces.