CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa - Simulated rounds thud into the wooden exterior of a small hut and covering fire explodes through the jungle as camouflaged figures dart through the vegetation.
This was the scene as Marines patrolled Oct. 29 during the jungle leaders course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves.
The four-week course is designed to develop Marines capable of leading small units during jungle operations, including patrolling, tactical rope suspension, helicopter assaults, survival skills, raids and escape and evasion techniques.
“For the past twelve years, we have been focused on operating in the desert and are now out here in a jungle where the terrain is very different,” said Sgt. Steven McKinney, the chief instructor for the course with JWTC. “It is very important to establish standard-operating procedures for the units.”
The course was comprised of Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, along with Marines assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, both currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, under the unit deployment program.
The patrol operations included heliborne insertion from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772, currently assigned to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF, under the unit deployment program.
“We’re patrolling through the jungle and setting up raids and ambushes,” said Cpl. Christopher A. Wootton, a student in the course and rifleman with 2nd Bn., 6th Marines. “We will be conducting force-on-force attacks using simulated rounds.”
The Marines dispersed into teams during the training to create more realistic opposition forces. While one unit defended a designated position, the other attacked. The objective for both units was to secure the position and eliminate the opposition.
“When you take contact from the enemy in the jungle they’ll be a lot closer,” said 2nd Lt. Chet W. Shaffer, a student in the course and infantry officer with 2nd Bn., 6th Marines. “You have to learn how to plan; in the jungle anything can happen.”
Throughout the training, the Marines not only battled fatigue but also the terrain, according to Shaffer.
“It’s difficult because you’re looking for the enemy but also the next step, the next tree to grab,” said Shaffer.
At the conclusion of training, the Marines remained enthusiastic, knowing the training helped develop their leadership and close-quarters battle skills.
“The course has been some of the most hands-on training I’ve received,” said Wootton. “I feel I have effectively improved my leadership skills. (It) has been a great experience and has built up my confidence.”