Archive for September 24, 2010
Rumble in the Jungle
U.S. Marines slog through a stream during a jungle-patrol exercise in Guatemala’s remote Poptun Training Camp. About 40 Marines from Alpha Company of the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, spent a week at the Guatemalan Special Forces camp as part of a “subject matter expert exchange” or SMEE. The Marines are part of a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force supporting a larger humanitarian civic affairs mission in Latin America and the Caribbean
The elite Guatemalan commandos known as Kaibiles conduct an arduous 60-day training course twice a year in Poptun, located in the northernmost district sandwiched between Belize and Mexico. If you’ve seen the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, “Predator,” which was shot in the Mexican jungles, then you’ve got a pretty good idea how rugged the terrain is at Poptun.
The Kaibiles are a controversial unit created in 1974 during Guatemala’s bitter 36-year Civil War, Specializing in jungle warfare tactics and counter insurgency operations,the Kaibiles believe a soldier must earn his food, so before every meal they are required to climb a rope, do five pull-ups, 10 push-ups ands run two miles. The U.S. Marines also performed those exercises before eating their chow during the week-long SMEE.
Only seven or eight of the 40-some candidates in a typical Kaibiles training course will make it to graduation,says Col. Victor Diaz, commander of the Kaibil training school. The seven-day training package the Marines completed at Poptun focused on the Kaibil swim qualification course, jungle terrain navigation and maneuvering, moving vehicle exits and reacting to ambushes.
While many of those skills are similar to Marine Corps doctrine, Capt. Lynn Berendsen, Alpha Company’s commander, believes the Kaibiles enhanced the compressed training session “by teaching us some techniques for operating in a jungle environment … something most Marines have not done since the Global War on Terrorism shifted our focus to the desert.”
Counter-guerrilla doctrine and the Kaibiles’ history was also included in the training. The motto of these jungle fighters who wear maroon berets is: “Si avanzo…sígueme, Si me detengo…Apremiame, Si retrocedo…mátame. “Kaibil!” [In English: “If I advance, follow me. If I stop, urge me on. If I retreat, kill me.” While the Kaibiles have unquestioned jungle warfare skills, critics are concerned about the export of their extreme training methods and skill sets to Mexico’s drug wars.
Alpha Company’s stay in Guatemala – one of three military knowledge exchanges in the Central American country – was part of a larger annual exercise, Continuing Promise 2010. CP2010 is a humanitarian-civic assistance mission that includes medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support as well as disaster response expertise exchange.
The Marines have conducted similar SMEEs in Colombia and Costa Rica with future exchanges scheduled for Nicaragua and Suriname.
Repelling an Attack
U.S. Army Specialist William B. James shoots at the enemy during a firefight that lasted more than three hours at the Shege East Afghan National Police Checkpoint in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 18, 2010. Tiny Kunar Province sits along the Pakistan border in northeast Afghanistan.
An estimated two dozen insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and small arms at the post. International Security Assistance Forces and ANP responded in kind with small arms, heavy machine gun and mortar fire. Neither ISAF nor ANP personnel were injured during the attack.
Here’s another view of the action. Click on image to enlarge: