View Full Version : Jungle Survival: An acquired taste

06-17-03, 04:04 PM
Jungle Survival: An acquired taste

Story by Cpl. Damian J. McGee
For many Marines with limited experience in the field, subsisting on nothing but Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MREs) three times a day for nearly two weeks would seem like a survival challenge in and of itself. Now imagine being in the middle of the Thailand Jungle and the only things to eat are plants, fruits, and the occasional bug or snake.

For the Marines of Echo Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, the jungle was their environment, wildlife became their diet, and survival their ultimate mission. Their experience made the average reality show seem like child’s play.

The unit was taking part in Cobra Gold '03, an annual training exercise between U.S. and Thai forces. Besides adjusting to the drastic climate change from their home base in Alaska, the Marines had to quickly familiarize themselves with the strange, new environment and endure hardships they had never previously encountered.

Fortunately, with the expert guidance of Thai Reconnaissance Marines, the Marines learned how to survive in some of the most inhospitable terrain known to man.

"Most survival training is very similar," said Capt. "Wild" Bill Donaldson, platoon commander, special skills platoon, Echo Company. "Though the parameters are a little different, most of it comes down to what you can and can't eat, and how and where to gather water."

Most Marines who have been through any type of survival course can attest to the seemingly scarce resources readily available in the environment. The best way to survive in such instances is to use a little creativity and ingenuity. But in Thailand, the Marines quickly discovered the veritable smorgasbord available to them at every turn.

"I was honestly amazed at the amount of things there were to eat out here. It's almost kind of funny," Donaldson said. "I mean we've been walking around seeing all these things on the trees and many times asking what they were, when all the while it was some type of fruit, or something used for medicinal purposes."

The Thai Marines pointed out the different leaves that could be used for food, medical purposes, and even several that were poisonous. As the training progressed, the Thais showed how these same poisonous leaves could be used as tranquilizers to kill small animals. The Marines were taught additional ways to prepare animals that were commonly eaten by the locals in Thailand.

"I think they had everything from cockroaches to crickets and ants out there," said Private First Class Shane Jurgensen, field radio operator, Echo Company. "I think we all tried at least one bug, and I can honestly say it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but I don't see my self rushing out to my backyard to gather ants for my next meal."

Once the Marines got a taste of how bad things could get, the Thais explained how to prepare more palatable fare using simple tools from the jungle.

Around the camp, the Thai Marines built six cooking stations showing how to cook fish, rice, and eggs served in the most unique ways. With a few bamboo shoots, large leaves, and a little water, the Thai Marines skillfully demonstrated how fish could be steamed or grilled; how rice could be prepared in a coconut shell, a bamboo shoot, or even a Kevlar helmet; and finally, how eggs could be hard boiled, scrambled, and (if you're careful enough) prepared over easy.

The eggs were an instant success, but where does one find eggs in the middle of the jungle?

The Thai Marines explained that chickens were plentiful on the outskirts of villages. And with the quick snap of the arm, the original egg supplier suddenly became the entrée.

"After what I saw today," Jurgensen began. "I can honestly say I completely understand the statement, 'running around like a chicken with it's head cut off."

While it seemed there could be nothing else, the day was not complete without poisonous scorpions and venomous snakes.

Of course, a trip to the jungle was not complete without an encounter with the deadly cobra.

The Marines were taught that a cobra could only strike a distance equal or lesser to their height while erect. By stretching their arms a length longer than the snake’s body, the Marines were then instructed to gently ease their hand on to the snakes head and grip it tightly to keep the mouth closed.

"I was a little amazed at how easy it was to tame a snake," Donaldson said. "I was also surprised at how straightforward the technique is, putting the person face to face with this deadly animal."

When it was all said and done, the courage of the Marines paid off. The Thais killed the snakes, skinned them and showed Echo Company how to prepare them.

The training concluded with an elaborate meal featuring platters of fruit, grilled stingray, steamed rice, eggs, roasted chicken, and snake soup for dessert.

"The idea of being lost in the jungle doesn't seem to bad now that I've seen all of this," Jurgensen said. "There is no doubt in my mind that I could survive if put in the situation. Even still, I'm kind of hoping I never have to put those Cobra taming techniques to use."




06-17-03, 06:43 PM
If I didn't know better, I'd swear that the above offerings look like the food that I was served at the Boy's School I went to many, many moons ago. I can't complain, I'm still alive. I just burp alot.

06-18-03, 08:52 AM
Being on a patrol team while on Barracks duty in the Phillipines, NTA on Okinawa, The Jungles of Thailand are all pretty bad, but none compares to the jungles of central America I.E. Camp Sherman and the Mahinga Swamp absoulolutley hell on earth!!