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Photo Information

Marines lift a mock casualty using a field-expedient stretcher during an endurance course April 17 at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves. By this point in the course, the Marines carried the casualty close to a mile over steep hills and harsh jungle terrain, according to Maj. Tim Kao. The Marines are with various units assigned to Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Kao is the camp commander for Camp Gonsalves, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stephen D. Himes/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Stephen Himes

Marines conquer harshest jungle environment in DoD

17 Apr 2014 | Cpl. Stephen D. Himes 3rd Marine Division

The morning is cool and calm as Marines step to the edge of a cliff, rope clenched in each hand. The silence is broken as a Marine bellows “On rappel!”

The clock starts for the first team as they begin the initial event, a hasty rappel down a sheer cliff face, of a lengthy endurance course.

Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, completed the endurance course, the culminating event of the basic jungle survival course, April 17 at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves.

“The mission for the Jungle Warfare Training Center is to train Marines for combat operations in a jungle environment,” said Major Tim Kao, the camp commander for Camp Gonsalves, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.

The jungle is vastly different from the desert terrain many Marines have been training in for the past decade, according to Kao, a native of Vancouver, Wash. The jungle does not allow for significant mechanized or motorized movements, which forces Marines to hone their dismounted warfighting abilities.

The endurance course spans several miles and requires the Marines to traverse an array of obstacles, which physically and mentally challenge the participants.

Early in the endurance course, and immediately after crawling through a tunnel partially submerged in water, Marines execute what is known as a “Kim’s game.” The memory exercise challenges a group of participants to silently observe a set of items for two minutes and then compile a list of the items by memory at the completion of the course.

“The purpose of a Kim’s game is to keep the team (members’) minds strong as they continue on through the stressful course,” said Cpl. Anthoni King III, an engineer chief with JWTC. “We are testing their ability to retain information.”

This ability to retain information is often vital to mission success and theatre security, according to King, a native of St. Louis, Mo.

As the only jungle warfare training facility in the Department of Defense, Marines from across the world take advantage of an opportunity to attend one of the courses offered by the center.

“We knew when we were going on the unit deployment program that we were going to have the chance to go to JWTC,” said Capt. Matthew Hohl, the commanding officer for Company E, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, currently assigned to CAB, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the UDP. “I wanted to give some of the Marines a chance to come here and experience the only jungle warfare training center the U.S. military has to offer.”

The normal training environment for the Marines includes beaches and desert, according to Hohl, a native of Clinton, Mass. Intensive jungle familiarization is something the unit cannot participate in at Camp Pendleton.

The course concluded with a tactical combat casualty care assessment. The team stabilizes a mock casualty, makes a field-expedient stretcher, and transports the casualty over a mile, traversing steep slopes and harsh terrain.

“The casualty carry at the end was easily the worst part,” said Lance Cpl. George Redhead, a rifleman with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, currently assigned to CAB. “The course was hard, and the water we went through at the end was so muddy you couldn’t see anything, if you even dared to open your eyes. This was some of the best training I’ve experienced.”