Jungle training to prepare forces for future threats
The u.s. military personnel train in Hawaii. Jonathan Hunt reports.
They are scenes reminiscent of the War in Vietnam and the Pacific Theatre during the second world War: the AMERICAN soldiers, caked with mud and dripping wet from the monsoon rains, walk through dense jungle brush.
But instead of south-east Asia, these are the Hawaiian jungles northwest of Honolulu, where the AMERICAN Army 25th Infantry Division is training some of our military’s bravest men and women to fight and survive in this unique terrain. It is a less well known face for this generation of soldiers, who have been patrolling in the desert, mountains and urban landscapes of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Understand how to fight in the jungles of invaluable training for us at this time,” says Sergeant George Feghali of the 25th Infantry Division, a training on the 25th ID’s Lightning Academy in Wahiawa on the island of Oahu.
“The way the army has been focused for the past 16 years, there is in the desert, an urban environment,” Feghali remains. “We have kind of gotten away from our roots.”
The academy is the U. S. Army’s first jungle training school since the last times, located in Panama, closed in 1999. While no one here can talk about military strategy or policy, Lightning Academy was founded in a time when ISIS, Al Qaeda and other extremist groups are gaining traction in the Pacific region, in particular in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
And although there is no jungle in North Korea, increased tension created by Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions is another reason why the preparation of military forces outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is vital training.
“It makes me a force multiplier,” says Staff Sergeant Apollo Ruiz, who served three tours in Afghanistan and one tour of Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division and underwent Lighting Academy training. “It is a very different monster in simple terms. It is totally different from operating there.”
A difference is sound. While the desert wars are synonymous with the rumble of armored Humvees, here in the jungle soldiers listening to the water rippling, shifting of the leaves and the light thud of boots on the ground.
“Here you have to be very quiet,” says Captain Joshua Geis, the Lightning of the Academy of the Commander. “You really need to make conscious actions and deliberate movements when approaching the enemy.”
And where the desert is open and vast, the jungle is too close and the brakes.
“It is so restrictive. Everything is so tight,” says Feghali, who, in two tours each in Iraq and Afghanistan. “[There] I can move 5 or 6 kilometers [3.1-3.7 km] an hour, while I removed. Here, I can move 500 meters [0.3 miles].”
“We are mostly sticking with exploration, mounted most of the time,” adds Staff Sergeant Ruiz. “It is certainly difficult to maneuver and to be able to meet the usual tactics that you learned, when we for the first time.”
And while 70 percent of the Lightning of the Academy of the participants are from the 25th Infantry Division, other military branches, the train will also be here, as well as a number of in the law enforcement agencies such as the FBI.
Feghali and Ruiz belong to a class of 75 soldiers who began the gruelling three-week course in November. Friday’s graduation, they were two of only 33 to make it to the end.
It is a gruelling three weeks, but the preparation is of crucial importance.
“The goal is to be able to learn the skills that will enable students to survive, to fight, [and] win in a jungle environment,” says Geis. “Our job is to be ready to fight in the next battle.”
Fox News’ Jonathan Hunt contributed to this report.