CAMP LEMMONIER, Djibouti -- Two U.S. Army Civil Affairs Battalion soldiers, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, French Army soldiers from the 5th Overseas Combined Arms Regiment, and members of 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, endured fourteen days in the heat, learning to fight, survive and navigate Djibouti’s desert.
The French military course is designed to prepare soldiers to survive in desert climate by teaching participants combat lifesaving skills, field tactics, land navigation, weapons training, trap setting, survival cooking and water source locating.
The U.S. Army is currently launching a similar course in Texas and intends to send some of the future instructors through the France's desert survival school for training.
“I’ve learned a lot of really cool ways to survive,” U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Kirkwood, noncomissioned officer in charge of 415th Civil Affairs Battalion's medical cell said. “How to filter sea water, collect water, how to light a fire with things you wouldn’t even think of, such as cell phones. It’s pretty interesting.”
Participants learned how to acquire food from various sources as part of their survival lessons.
“This course is important, [even though] we’re very tired after this phase. We are ready to conduct a big operation,” French Capt. Louis, armor company commander said. “It’s very good, because you’re immediately ready to deploy. All the instructions are based on what has happened in previous operations. These are skills that you use in operations.”
In addition to survival tactics, the weathered service members broke into four platoons, working together to complete a water obstacle course and the “Path of the Unconscious,” a ropes course, carved out of an approximately 300-foot cliff.
By completing the French Desert Survival Course, service members earned the desert commando badge.
“This is the first time at my company’s level we’ve worked with the Americans to improve our interoperability,” Louis said. “The experience has been awesome.”