Join us

'The jungle is neutral': British and Belizeans pushed to the limit

The 1st Battalion Scots Guards (1SG), together with a range of other British Army units and our allies from Belize, had to get comfortable being uncomfortable in one of the world’s most unforgiving environments on Exercise Mayan Storm.

Normally based in Yorkshire, the jungle warfare training that these soldiers undertook in the South American country during November and December must have seemed a world away from the norm.

However, the skills and drills that were being reinforced during the package will be invaluable and could make all the difference on operations.

Just maintaining your own body and equipment is the first fight of any morning. 2Lt Coughlan

Second Lieutenant Coughlan, one of the platoon commanders on the exercise, said: “Jungle training is different to other training, simply because of the environment. Command is a huge issue – you can often only see 10 or 20 metres in front of you if you’re lucky. Radios are nigh-on unworkable out here.

“The use of a linkman is therefore essential. For me to get communications to my section commanders requires the use of hand signals, remaining silent as we patrol. My top tip for operating here is personal administration and discipline. Just maintaining your own body and equipment is the first fight of any morning.”

While the exercise, which also included personnel from The Highlanders, 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, the Household Cavalry Regiment, and the Royal Lancers, had a simulated ‘enemy’, the biggest adversary proved to be the jungle itself.

Lance Sergeant Woodhouse, of 1SG, said: “There are snakes, spiders, scorpions, and also plants that will cause a rash. There’s small trees with large spikes on them that will straight through your combats and stab into the skin.

Fundamentally, operating in the jungle is soldiering in its purest form. WO2 Dale

“We use the expression: the jungle is neutral, because the jungle will always win. Doing the basics right, doing the right thing at the right time, what you learn in training will pay dividends out here. You’ll come back as a better soldier and better team player.”

Partnered with the British during the exercise was the Belize Defence Force (BDF), whose personnel were vital in the smooth running of training.

Second Lieutenant Coughlan said: “Working with the BDF has been really interesting. We have our tactics from Brunei, however, the jungle here is very different to over there. Having the BDF input is a massive aid.”

Despite the conclusion of Exercise Mayan Storm, training packages in Belize will continue, with specialist-directing staff based in the country ensuring continuity.

One of these is Warrant Officer Class Two Dale, of the Small Arms School Corps, who said: “The focus is on enhancing the soldier’s ability to shoot, move, communicate, and medicate in a harsh and unforgiving environment, with high levels of humidity and temperatures often in excess of 30 degrees.

“Fundamentally, operating in the jungle is soldiering in its purest form. It requires the application of basic soldiering skills performed to the highest of standards.”

'The jungle is neutral'