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#21792 - 10/17/06 07:27 PM Inside the Search for Sgt. Ramon Aguilar
Marty Offline
At the top of the newscast, we showed you the emotional welcome for Sgt. Ramon Aguilar when he returned home on Saturday night - after being lost in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve for 9 days. Now, in our next story we'll tell you exactly how he got lost, and how he was found. The BDF held a press conference at Price Barracks where no detail of the Chiquibul odyssey was left untold and we'll share it all with you, including the reason why it looks like his daughter won't get her birthday wish.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
This daughter wants her dad at home for her birthday on October 28th but on that day, he'll be back out in the bush because, despite his misfortune, this soldier is going to continue training.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett, BDF Commander
"I have spoken to Sgt. Aguilar and his wife and they have both agreed that he should go back and finish the jungle warfare instructor course. This will happen tomorrow."

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"She supports me in everything I do, especially when it comes to my job because she realizes that this is my career. If job needs me then I will tell her I have to go. She will feel but she'll understand that I have a job to do and I spoke to her…and she told me not to lose my map this time."

And that map is what this is all about. Sgt. Aguilar was on a 6 week jungle warfare instructor course, here in this dense sometimes impenetrable rainforest. The course teachers soldiers jungle, survival, tactical skills and orienteering and a soldier can't do any of it without a map. So when Aguilar lost his last Wednesday morning, he knew had to go back for it, and that's where he lost his bearing. Major David Jones was in charge of the search and he detailed where this soldier lost his way.

Major. David Jones, BDF
"He started from the center here looking for this check point three. He did not find checkpoint three and then he was going in a direction towards southeast to checkpoint one. However, because of not finding this area, the bearing that he plotted got him in a situation that he was more lost. So instead of going in this direction he headed more south southeast towards checkpoint two. Approximately 250 metres away from checkpoint two, he was encountered by the sergeant. After that encounter he continued on that bearing. So because of going on that bearing he passed this track and then he continued off into the jungle for quite a number of kilometers."

And because he veered off, he went from being 150 yards from camp two, to being lost in the wilderness with a water bottle, machete a knife and compass and no map. That's when the BDF activated 325 soldiers to launch a massive search - saturating the area emanating from Las Cuevas along these tracks seen on this map. But while the search was on, the BDF had another worry.

Major David Jones,
"It was believed that he probably would have been captured by Xateros in the area because there were many Guatemalan Xateros in the area and we thought that if he was not in the immediate area, he's probably with someone or someone probably detained him. So we decided to set out cut-off points to the area that led to the Guatemalan border on the western side. So we had the patrols laying in waiting in the nights, 24 hours a day monitoring those tracks that led over to Guatemala."

But while they monitored the west of Las Cuevas, this soldier said he never went there because he knew better.

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"Now anyone lost at bush knows to never go west, especially if you are a soldier. You would be going into the enemy's territory."

But this soldier went in about every other direction, constantly searching for some clue or track to lead him to the base. And on Saturday morning, that paid off.

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"The last place I slept was the first place I got lost. I said to myself I got lost from here, I came in from here, and I have to get out from here. So I went back, that was Friday night. I went back to the last place I got lost, where I harbored the first night. I said six o'clock in the morning I will get up and I'll walk until I drop if I have to but out I will come today. I walked for about four hours until I met a wider track. Now the boot prints that I saw were military type boots, jungle boots, and it was a lot of them so I knew it was about at least six to eight soldiers moving in that area. So I decided I will take one hour walk right and if nothing I would come back with one hour left; I would not stop walk today. I continued walking for roughly about two hours.

Upon going I started to hear voices talking so I stopped and listened for two minutes. I moved closer and I began to hear Creole language and definitely I felt good because the Xateros don't talk Creole, they talk Spanish. So I said these were Belizeans, if they weren't soldiers they were people who must have been logging in the place. I moved in closer and the closer I moved in, I am recognizing the voice and I had one heard someone from 'Intake B' and I'll call his name, Bennett; I heard his voice clearly. He was my 'intake B' and we went through training so I know his voice very good. So when I heard his voice I walked into their camp and when they saw me the Major said it was like a joy to them. They hugged me up and told me they were looking for me for a long time and asked what I wanted; if I wanted to eat, if I wanted to drink. They told me to come sit down and I told them no, I am good."

When word was radioed back to Jones at about 3:00 pm - it was the best news he could have heard.

Major David Jones,
"At that time there was jubilation on the base. I have never seen soldiers of the Belize Defense Force so happy. The roar that they made in the jungle was phenomenal. When I heard the news there was cold seed over my skin because we were searching all that area for quite a long time and we were wondering what had happened to this guy."

The area he was found in was about three kilometers - less than two miles from the base. When he got there, he surprised his Major.

Major David Jones,
"I looked at him and I asked him are you alright, if he could have a seat so we can sit and chat. He said sir he is good to go and he is strong. He said he'd been sitting out there for a long time and he is good just to stand up and talk. I was a bit shocked."

The force medical officer who examined him when he was flown into price barracks three hours later, reached the same conclusion.

Lt. Col. Irvin Gabourel,
"I must say he was upbeat after being nine days lost in the jungle, you have to have a very strong mind for that. We noticed that he had lost a few pounds, which was expected. I understand he was eating snakes and river crabs and lizards. He had multiple insect bites all over the body. His feet were a bit sore from the long hours of trekking but all in all, he was very upbeat."

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"For that entire nine days, everything I met, once it walked, it was dead. The snakes that we call the jumping tommy goff, usually when you meet one of that you try to avoid but I was glad when I saw one. That was a meal for the day. So during that whole nine days I always made sure I stayed by a stream because to survive out there you need shelter, you need food, and you need water. Those are the three basic necessities out there. So I always tried to stay by the stream and they had some little shells, I don't know if you know them, we call them butes, they were very nourishing. I am sure I eat at least 15 of those for the day along with the little crabs and the frog, I cut off the legs and that is what I ate for nine days without a match or anything."

And while that's what he ate, many wonder how and where did he sleep?

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"I chopped the cohune and used the leaf to make what we call a 'A Frame' and that is how I slept….I couldn't complain about rain because I stayed wet."

And while raw frog legs and being wet for days may not be your idea of the great outdoors, it's qualified this Sergeant to be an instructor on a very specific discipline.

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"So the Colonel has told me that based on my nine nights experience, I am well qualified instructor to do the survival phase of this course."

And while he will instruct, he's also a student and orienteering is a test he admits he failed.

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"On my part I failed because I lost my map and on the other part I did good because I proved to everyone that the training we get are real training."

And that proof of true survivalist skills has thrust this soldier into the world of celebrities.

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"I was shocked and surprised to see the amount of people that were actually supporting and waiting for my return. I felt like a celebrity."

Q: What was the reunion like for your family?

Sgt. Ramon Aguilar,
"Well I didn't have time for everyone. Every I turned there was someone…yesterday I didn't sleep. Saturday night I didn't sleep any at all. They didn't want to go home. When I did went to take a rest, it was about 3:30 to 4:00 in the morning. By 5 o'clock my wife says she put her hand around me but I was not there as at 5 o'clock I was already up. I ran a joke and told her I am getting ready to move out because I can't stay here, I need to find a way out, just a little joke. But that was the time I usually get up but it was a very good feeling. When you are in the jungle by yourself, you get to appreciate what you left behind you."

And he won't get to appreciate all that he left behind until the training is finished on November third. Major Jones reports that had Aguilar not been found on Saturday, he would have ordered a raid of two large Xatero camps in the Chiquibul. As for the future, General Gillett says that whenever an incident like this occurs an internal court of inquiry is convened to review procedure and recommend preventative practice. He said that could include the recommendation that soldiers carry their weapon at all times, even in training and that more specific boundaries be displayed in the area

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#21793 - 10/18/06 04:47 AM Re: Inside the Search for Sgt. Ramon Aguilar
seashell Offline
Great story, but I guess I'd have to add, that if they are considering that soldiers carry their weapon at all times, etc, that they also see that their soldiers carry their map on a silly string.

hee hee
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A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?


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