Marines survive Malaysian jungle during exercise - by Capt. Christopher M. Perrine
Friday, June 02, 2006
SUNGAI LEMBING, Malaysia -- It was a short helicopter ride from the port of Kuantan to a landing zone in a rocky river bed, but when the Marines and Sailors stepped off the helicopter, they stepped into a different world in the Lembing River National Reserve Forest, deep in the Malaysian jungle. They were met near the landing zone by Maj. Ivan Lee, an operations officer with Malaysia’s 8th Royal Ranger Regiment.
“I intend to keep you very busy, push you very hard,” Lee said. “I want you to get the experience necessary to survive in the jungle.”
Such was the greeting the Marines and Sailors received on their first full day in Malaysia. Approximately 150 Marines and Sailors from Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, III Marine Expeditionary Force, had just begun a five-day jungle-training package in a totally foreign environment. The Lembing River forest hosts steep terrain and thick vegetation and is populated by countless monkeys, snakes, lizards, tigers and elephants -- just a few of the jungle’s inhabitants. An armed Ranger escort accompanied each group of Marines for protection against potential four-legged foes.
The Malaysian army has not trained in the area in the past 10 to 15 years. In the 1960s and 1970s the area was a hotbed of communist terrorist activity and was used as a main supply route by the guerilla forces in their fight against the Malaysian government before they surrendered in 1989.
The training package was designed to give the members of LF CARAT experience in jungle survival, tracking, patrolling, ambushing and jungle attack. The 8th RRR established training camps and provided instructors for the Marines and Sailors, most of whom came from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, which forms the nucleus of the Ground Combat Element of LF CARAT. Participants also came from Combat Service Support Detachment 37 and the command element of the landing force.
Upon arriving in the jungle, the Marines were separated into five platoon-sized training groups of 20 to 30 Marines. A Ranger guide led each group to one of several training camps, each separated by several kilometers.
When Group 1 arrived at their camp, they were met by their head instructor, Captain Norul Hisyam, B Company commanding officer, 8th Royal Ranger Regiment. Norul showed the group, comprised of Marines from the command element and CSSD 37, how to set up a tight defensive perimeter in the jungle, complete with shallow fighting positions lined with banana leaves right next to their jungle hammocks.
Norul also explained how to run a thin string all the way around the circular or triangular perimeter. The string was used by the Marines to navigate around the perimeter at night in the complete jungle darkness. Any two-legged or four-legged creature that ventured past the string without giving the password was to be “shot.”
The Ranger captain also advised the Marines to be vigilant with security throughout the night. Half of the Marines had to remain awake for security at all times.
“The communist terrorists are very good,” Norul warned. “They will sneak up on you and kill you or take your equipment.” The “communist terrorists” in this case were portrayed by scouts from Norul’s company and were tasked with attempting to breach the Marines’ perimeter each night. If successful, the Rangers would try to sneak off with weapons or equipment.
After surviving night one in the jungle, the five Marine groups moved to Jungle Survival Village, known as Camp MOG. Maj. Lee began survival classes by explaining the importance of training in the jungle. “Seventy percent of Malaysia is jungle; we will fight there,” Lee said. “Survival starts with an attitude. You must be able to live off the jungle. It will provide food, water and medicine.”
The Marines then learned how to kill and cook a monkey and a 4-foot Monitor lizard. Next, the group received a class on the uses of jungle vegetation. They learned what could be eaten and what was poisonous. They also learned to identify plants that could be used for medicinal purposes, such as treatment for diarrhea, rashes, wounds, insect bites and fever. Lee even displayed a root that is being tested as a potential cure for AIDS.
The Marines had the opportunity to eat several jungle fruits and drink water from a vine before moving on to learn how to erect several types of jungle shelters and construct traps and snares for catching monkeys, birds, wild boars, lizards and fish.
At the final station, the Marines learned how to make fire using dried moss, a rock and bamboo. They also ate monkey and fish boiled in bamboo shafts. Those who were daring even tasted worms and dried monkey, lizard, snake and bird.
Following the survival training, each group went back to their respective camp for a brief rest and more classes. The Malaysians then gave instruction on patrolling, ambushing and tracking.
“It was an experience,” said Cpl. Jonathan W. Piel, team leader, 1st squad, 1st platoon, 3rd battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. “I’ve got to say they were definitely one of the best forces that we’ve trained with since we’ve been on CARAT. They were very professional; they know what they’re doing.”
The next two days were consumed by practical application. The Marines in each group conducted day and night patrols and practiced identifying vegetation. They also conducted ambushes. The training culminated the final day in an early morning attack by each group on a simulated communist terrorist camp, which were constructed by the Rangers.
“I think it was a success training with the Malaysian Rangers,” said Piel, a New Iberia, La., native. “I learned a lot, and everyone else that I talked to said these guys were good to go, so that made us wanting to learn a little more important.
“These guys wanted to teach us; they wanted us there,” Piel said. The source.....