Marines face fears to survive
By Lance Cpl. Stephen Himes
| U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific | February 15, 2014
BAN CHAN KREM, Kingdom of Thailand --
Marines gathered closely as Pairoj Prasansai, affectionately known as “the snake man”, pulled two venomous Thai cobras out of a crate with his bare hands.
“The snake man” dropped the cobras at his feet to start his famous snake charming demonstration during a jungle survival class given to U.S. Marines at Exercise Cobra Gold.
The class begins with Royal Thai Reconnaissance Marines teaching U.S. Marines about the various plants and vegetation available in the jungles of Thailand. U.S. Marines are taught which plants are edible, what medicinal properties they may possess and which plants to avoid.
“This class is designed to assist our U.S. allies and counterparts,” said Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, survival instructor with Reconnaissance Division, Royal Thai Marine Corps. “This information will be critical to their survival if they ever have to perform missions in the jungles of Thailand.”
Assisted by fellow Thai RECON Marines, Prasansai and his team presented various methods to collect water as well as capture wild animals.
“This is a unique chance for new (U.S.) Marines,” said 1st Sgt. Josue Ayala, first sergeant for Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program. “There is always a preparation phase before deploying, but training like this is unique and invaluable.”
Parsansai went on to introduce the U.S. Marines to various venomous creatures that inhabit the local region.
While some of the indigenous wildlife may adversely affect a person’s emotions, it is very important to stay calm, according to Parsansai. When it comes to survival, one of the key focuses is to remember to stay calm and be brave enough to do what is necessary to survive.
The first example of doing what is necessary to survive included defanging a palm-sized tarantula, which removed its deadly poison, and then eating it while it was still alive.
“Seeing him eat the spider was intense,” said Lance Cpl. Stevan Melendez, an artilleryman with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. “I’ve never been in a position to have to eat anything that was still alive, let alone anything that is venomous.”
A demonstration which involved removing the stingers of and eating giant forest scorpions was also given before the snake handling portion began.
“Survival is a trademark of Cobra Gold,” said Parsansai, who has been teaching this class for 13 years. “It’s important that these combatants understand they will have to do things they have never thought of doing before in order to survive.”
It’s vital that young U.S. Marines experience the culture of different nations, according to Ayala. There may come a day when these Marines are working, fighting or living side-by-side with their counterparts from various nations. At that moment, these kinds of experiences will improve their ability to integrate with each other.
Parsansai saved the best for last. As the Thai Cobras hit the ground, they raised their heads, flared their hoods and hissed as they lunged forward to attack. Despite the inherent danger, he maintained his composure and was still able to pick up each cobra, kissing their heads.
The final act of understanding the true depth of what it sometimes takes to survive involved the U.S. Marines lining up to have cobra blood poured into their mouths. This served as an example of how an issue like dehydration can be overcome with the proper training and mindset.
“I look forward to this exercise every year,” said Parsansai. “The U.S. Marines are so enthusiastic. It’s pure pleasure to have the opportunity to work with them every year.”