U.S. Soldiers Train at Ghana Military-Led Jungle Warfare School
ACCRA, Ghana --
Mud-caked, sweat-soaked and carrying minimal survival tools, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment move through the dense brush of the Ghana’s Achiase Jungle.
The regionally aligned forces of U.S. Army Africa attended the Ghana armed forces-led Jungle Warfare School at Achiase military base in Akim Oda, Ghana, May 20-29.
Ghana’s military members have trained in jungle warfare for the past four decades. This year, they’re instructing U.S. soldiers.
Jungle Warfare Training
“In 1976, our forefathers and the military high command also thought it wise to also establish a school to train the personnel of the Ghana armed forces in jungle warfare, so that in case the situation arises where we have to apply ourselves in jungle warfare, we will be able to do. So that is how come the school is established to be able to train people,” said Ghanaian Maj. Jacob Codjoe, the school’s course commander.
More than 55 U.S. soldiers were challenged to survive in the harsh Ghanaian jungle during the ten-day course. The Ghanaian instructors equipped the students with practical knowledge specific to the local terrain and environment.
“How to adapt to jungle training is very difficult for them because their type of jungle in the U.S. is very different from the type of jungle that we have,” Codjoe said. “We have taught patrolling, which is a key to jungle training … [we] also taught them how to fight insurgents in the jungle terrain, how to combat guerilla[s] in jungle terrain, raid operations and attack on enemy camp operations.”
Difficult, Harsh Environment
The American soldiers, performing the various squad and platoon level tactics, quickly realized the difficulty in navigating through the jungle and adjusting to the harsh, humid climate.
“We’ve always been prepared for Iraq and Afghanistan and desert environments, and even the mountainous environments, so this is like nothing we’ve dealt with before,” said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Hugh Smith, Delta Company’s platoon leader.
According to Ghanaian Sgt. Michael Agyemang, the school’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge, the U.S. soldiers, were determined to soak up knowledge from the expert jungle instructors. “It’s been a fast learning experience between me and the students; they are just fast. Anything you tell them, they just grab it at once,” he said.
A sign at the school reading: The Jungle is Neutral, was explained as the jungle takes no sides; it treats everyone within it the same way. Smith said the jungle training is beneficial.
“I think it’s definitely enhanced readiness,” he said. “I think coming to a different environment -- a different terrain -- that we’ve never really dealt with before and learning the tactics, learning how to move, learning how to navigate through the jungle has very much helped us in our readiness. ”
Navigating the dense vegetation and uneven ground, as well as traversing waist-deep ponds and crossing unstable improvised bridges while watching for hidden dangerous wildlife challenged the American soldiers.
‘The Jungle Environment Will Eat You Up’
“The instructors here at Jungle Warfare School take their job very, very seriously. They treat everything we do as if it’s life or death, because when you are in the jungle environment it really is,” said U.S. Army Spc. Bryan Young, an infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. “You constantly have to be very vigilant. You have to look out for your surroundings; you have to be situationally aware. Otherwise, the jungle environment will eat you up.”
The fast-paced, physically and mentally demanding course created a bond between students and instructors.
“This training has been extremely important to partnership operations, allowing us to share our doctrine and tactics with the Ghanaian armed forces, as well to allow us to learn their tactics and doctrine enhancing our ability to operate in the future, if necessary, as a cohesive group,” said U.S. Army Capt. Matthew Cavanaugh, Delta Company’s commander. “We know what to expect if we were to come to this country again and built those relationships, allowing for more-effective interoperability in the future.”
Sleep deprived, covered in ant bites and physically exhausted, the students relied on each other during the grueling course. The instructors motivated the students through chants and the students rallied to finish the course.
“I have enjoyed working with them because of the teamwork,” Codjoe said. “I’ve realized that even when they are not able to move, they encourage each other to be able to move through. Just like we witnessed today, they were able to sustain themselves, which was very good for them. So, their teamwork has been very great.”
The opportunity to participate in the training created lasting memories, Young said.
“I will absolutely remember being at Jungle Warfare School for the rest of my life,” he said.