Marines with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 18 finished a five-day jungle survival course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center July 22.
“They (focused) on aspects of survival. Just basic steps that people in a survival situation would be confronted with,” said Lt. Col. Trent Blackson, commanding officer, JWTC, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The Marines of MWCS-18, part of Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF, were the first to go through an updated and improved version of the course, according to Sgt. Joshua R. Mathes, chief survival instructor, JWTC.
“We’ve done a lot of work on the course,” said Mathes. “We’ve revamped a lot of the previous classes, updated a lot of the information and put a brand new face on the survival course.”
The Marines engaged in both academic and practical-application sessions, allowing the Marines a chance to practice what they had learned.
“You can’t do survival training in the classroom only; you have to have practical application,” said Blackson. “You have to actually enter the environment and physically do those things to master those skills.”
The Marines were given a chance to prove their mastery of survival skills during the three-day final exercise.
“When we got to the (final exercise) they are basically surviving on their own,” said Mathes. “Each team (had) an instructor with them 24/7 to ensure that all training is being conducted safely.”
The Marines were required to show proficiency in each survival area.
“(During the final exercise), they make two movements, which are two to three (kilometers) flat-line distance, where they have to navigate through the jungle without the aid of a compass,” said Mathes. “They use different methods of determining directions via the sun, moon, stars and different plants and trees that grow in specific directions to determine what azimuth they are on.”
The Marines were also required to build a different type of improvised shelter every night, demonstrate proficiency in constructing a water purification system and light camp fires using multiple methods, according to Mathes.
All food the Marines eat after the second day of the course were a result of jungle survival skills.
“There is a reward system where students accomplish tasks, and they get rewarded with different amounts of food,” said Mathes.
On the final day, they were rewarded with the meal their field-expedient traps caught.
The instructors reminded the students that it was best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, rather than to let a bad situation catch them unaware.
“Today we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, tomorrow we may find ourselves in the jungle. There is the tropical zone that exists between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, where there are over 50 countries we are operating in, or have operated in in the past,” said Mathes. “They are riddled with jungle environments. Just because we are not in that kind of war does not mean that we will not be operating in one in the future.”
The students have adopted the mentality.
“I volunteered to come out here. It is a good learning experience,” said Pfc. Nicholas A. White, satellite operator, MWCS-18. “Some of it looks difficult, but I think it will be worth the challenge because you never know when you are going to need this out in the real world.”
Article by Lance Cpl. Mark W. Stroud, Marine Corps Bases Japan