US Soldiers Train for Jungle Warfare in Hawaii Rainforest

By McAVOY, Audrey | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 17, 2017 | Go to article overview

US Soldiers Train for Jungle Warfare in Hawaii Rainforest


McAVOY, Audrey, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


HONOLULU * The soldiers finished wading across a stream in a rainforest in Hawaii, and they were soaked. Their boots and socks were water-logged, and their clothes, hair and ears were caked with mud.

The soldiers were going through training at the first jungle school the Army has established in decades. The course is part of a program to train soldiers for exercises and potential combat on terrain that looks more like islands and nations in the Pacific than arid Afghanistan and the deserts of the Middle East.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Michael, deputy commander of the 25th Infantry Division, said the Army set up the school as its footprint was shrinking in Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war in those countries.

"The jungle school gives us that focus, it reinforces that we're in the Pacific," Michael said. "If you're in the 25th, you understand you got to fight in the tough environment of the Pacific."

Ever since the turn of the 20th century, the Army has fought in tropical rainforests. It spent years, for example, battling Filipino insurgents after the 1898 Spanish-American War. The Vietnam War was fought in the jungle.

The Army gave up its jungle training school in Panama in 1999 when the U.S. returned land there to the Panamanian government. Then jungle training lost priority in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks as the Army focused on preparing soldiers to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now, surviving and fighting in tropical rainforests has captured the Army's interest again. In 2013, it set up a jungle school at Schofield Barracks, a sprawling Army post some 30 miles west of the soft sands of Waikiki. Its dense woods have a stream soldiers can practice crossing and cliffs for rappelling.

First it needed instructors. The Army sent soldiers to military jungle schools in Brazil, Brunei and other tropical spots to reacquire long-lost skills. Instructors-in-training pored over old Army jungle manuals.

"We had to relearn everything," said Staff Sgt. Ascencion Lopez, who was one of the first instructors at the school, which is part of the 25th Infantry Division's Lightning Academy. …

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