EAST RANGE TRAINING CENTER, Hawaii - One hundred U.S. Army soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division practiced skills necessary to perform operations in jungle terrain at the 25th ID Lightning Academy's Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC) as part of a Phase 1 12-day-long course.
Students were able to learn techniques designed to enhance tracking, patrolling, reacting to enemy contact and survival skills specific to jungle operations to prepare soldiers for deployments throughout the Pacific Area of Responsibility.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Donley, 25th Infantry Division Lightning Academy Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC) instructor, speaks with soldiers on their performance during counter improvised explosive device (IED) training as part of the 25th ID Lightning Academy's Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC) Phase 1, 12-day-long course Oct. 22, 2014, at the East Range Training Center, Hawaii. The JOTC trains soldiers on how to conduct operations in a jungle environment proficiently. Approximately 100 soldiers attended the course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
U.S. Army Maj. Andrew Lyman, 25th ID Lightning Academy commander, explained how JOTC instructors enhance the quality of training provided.
"We send our JOTC instructors to foreign jungle schools with a number of our regional partners," Lyman said. "We've sent our instructors to Australia, Malaysia, Brunei, Okinawa and a number of other places, and what we've done is we've combined the best elements of those foreign courses into the course here. Specifically for JOTC, the training is very regionally focused."
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st. Class Justin Holt, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 25th Infantry Division Jungle Operations Training Center platoon sergeant and NCO in charge, described how training in a jungle environment can challenge students.
"We teach them how to walk through the jungle and, as easy as that may sound, some terrain is almost impassable," Holt said. "With that thick vegetation, we have to communicate verbally a lot of times. You're not going to be able to see a guy even if he is 3 feet in front of you, so you have to trust your leaders, get everybody on line and then execute the react to contact safely."
For some soldiers, the transition from training and operating in a desert or urban environment to jungle terrain has proved different from what some students are used to.
"It's not flat ground, it's up and downhill," said U.S. Army Pfc. Chad Cartwright, 2nd Cavalry Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. "You can end up seeing the enemy come from anywhere out here. We definitely focus a lot on patrolling and how you carry yourself while patrolling. You really have to keep eyes open, eyes peeled whenever you're walking around here because [terrain] is thick and you have to maintain your situational awareness and focus on every detail."
The 12-day-long Phase 1 course culminates with an exercise where all jungle skills learned are combined into one final scenario.
"By the end of this they are not going to be experts," Holt said. "We are introducing a lot of new things to them. In the end, I would like these soldiers to be more confident in the jungle. As generic as that may sound and as broad as that may sound, I think that reintroducing them into this jungle environment is just going to make them that much more confident. It's going to give them that motivation when they are out in that jungle, and they are getting rained on night after night with little to eat and little sleep; they'll know they can continue on. They'll know they can get the mission accomplished."
Only 25th Infantry Division units are currently able to attend the training, but JOTC leadership and instructors hope that their program can be refined and that units from the mainland will eventually be able to attend the training in the future.
More photos available below
By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
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