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British-led jungle masterclass in Hawaii

16 September 2016

Deep in the humid, hot and dense woods that make up the 25th Infantry Division’s Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC), in Hawaii, a class dismounts from vehicles to conduct squad level missions as part of their culmination exercise.

This training mission, will be led by Colour Sergeant Gaz McMahon and Colour Sergeant Som, instructors from the British Jungle School in Brunei. The experienced soldiers have been invited to be guest instructors to share best practices and concepts for operations in the jungle with the US squad.

“Point A and point B are the same for both countries, how we get there is a bit different,” explained CSgt McMahon. “We bring a different sort of angle. It’s bit like a toolbox, where if you use it, then you use it. If not, it’s still there just in case.”

Jungle Skills Course

The Jungle Skills Course gives the students an increased appreciation and respect for an environment that is very different than the desert and mountains in which the Army has found itself operating in over the past decade-and-a-half. The exercise allows both armies to share their detailed knowledge of jungle soldiering skills.

“We definitely liked the focus on mobility and will take that back with us,” said CSgt McMahon. “Working with a budget can constrain some training, but seeing how the school does it here, gives us some ideas how to do it back in Brunei.”

Colour Sergeant Gaz McMahon motivates students to stay vigilant during one of their final exercises. (Photo by Sgt. Ian Morales, 25th ID Public Affairs)

During the three-week course, both guest instructors witnessed how quickly students are expected to move and execute mission objectives after learning new skills, not just as individuals, but also as a team.

The biggest difference between the school in Brunei and Lightning Academy is the rank of students going through according to McMahon. It starts with Corporals-U.S. Army E-6 equivalent-up to Captain and it’s an eight-week course, which allows more time to focus on specific skills from a big picture point-of-view.

Colour Sergeant Som views students setting a perimeter before moving to an objective. (Photo by Sgt. Ian Morales, 25th ID Public Affairs)

Just like their guest instructors, 25th ID instructors have collectively been to a number of jungle courses around the world, including Japan, Australia and Africa. This helps create a broad and encompassing curriculum to challenge and instil good habits into the students, such as tracking, equipment recovery and hunting.

CSgt's McMahon and Som look forward to inviting JOTC instructors to Brunei to guest instruct, sharing knowledge and skills to the British students, further strengthening partnerships and capabilities between both nations.

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