Exercise Mayan Warrior: Foot guards test jungle warfare skills

Approximately 400 foot guards from 1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards have swapped their ceremonial duties to test their jungle warfare skills in Belize as they take part in Exercise MAYAN WARRIOR.

1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards (1CG) have been working and training together on Ex MAYAN WARRIOR. The exercise is named after the ancient Mayan people and culture that had previously inhabited the region. The Guards have been deployed deep in the heart of Belize’s rainforest, learning how to fight in the jungle, and perhaps, more importantly how to navigate and survive amidst the dangers that lay beneath the canopies. It is the first time that 1CG have exercised in Belize and conducted jungle warfare training.

The Coldstream Guards have been based in Price Barracks for the last 4 weeks working closely alongside the Belizean Defence Force (BDF) to reinforce UK commitment and maintain enduring relationships. The Coldstreamers have been assisted by the BDF, they have been providing soldiers to not only help role-play as the enemy, but also act as local guides and to generally bring the picture to life for the training the guards have been doing.

Being put through their jungle warfare training is two of the battalions light role company's 1 and 2 Company (1Coy & 2Coy) and one ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) the Battalion Support Company (Sp Coy). Ex Mayan Warrior consists of three training phases; the basic jungle school phase, which is 10-12 days and teaches the survival, navigation, living and patrolling skills including a river crossing. The intermediate jungle school phase, which is a further, five days training and includes riverine operations, section/ platoon/ company tactical training, booby trapping, close target reconnaissance, camp attack/ambush and complex navigation. The final phase is the live firing package phase.

Colour Sergeant Richard Amis, Jungle Warfare Instructor said: “We are 3 days into 2 Coy’s low level basic training phase, this eight man platoon section have been working very hard, they have managed to maintain 360 degree protection during this small river crossing using the mechanics as taught, I am very pleased.”

Captain Jody Bragger is a Live Ranges Officer and it is his second deployment in Belize. Last time he was here he was a trainee, now he has returned and is the trainer. He said: “It’s great to come back to Belize. For me it is good see it from a different perspective, for the guys the jungle is challenging, the heat, fatigue and environment all contribute to provide a different form of training and it is great that we can come here and broaden our experiences.”

The difficulties of simply looking after yourself, or as the military refer ‘your personal admin’ is an immense struggle especially as Belize is known as a ‘Dirty Jungle’. In the jungle you do without the pleasures of soap or general toiletries; you are expected to not only visually blend in with the jungle with camouflage, but also with its smells as any ‘clean’ odour can carry for thousands of metres giving your position away. Shaving is out of the question, any cut or graze runs the risk of becoming infected. The soldiers have to become at one with their environment; all this before you even start contending with the insects and creepy crawlies of the jungle - mosquito’s, spiders (tarantulas among others), scorpions and snakes all intent on having a piece of you.

Navigating through the jungle is slow, exhausting and riddled with difficulties. The dense canopy makes the use of sat-nav systems impossible and can also interfere with radio transmission. In amongst the thick undergrowth everything around you looks the same; there are no topographical features to use for reference. The ground under foot is steep, muddy and at times uneven causing many to stumble and fall. Lance Corporal Kris Boyer added: “It’s tough, everything wants a bit of you – even the grass.”

Guardsman Richard Lawson, 2 Coy, said: “The training has been emotional, the heat and the environment is so much harder to deal with than any other I have experienced. I am really looking forward to getting some proper kip and freshening up.”