When Pfc. Michael Ksander arrived at the French Jungle Warfare School here, he had no idea what to expect.

“The swamps of Georgia are very different than the jungle here, incredibly different,” said Ksander. “I thought it would be similar to the environment you might see in Florida, maybe New Orleans or Georgia, but it’s not.”

Ksander and about 80 of his fellow infantrymen from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment this month became the first American service members to attend the school here. The soldiers, from Fort Stewart, Georgia’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, battled heat, humidity, wildlife and rugged terrain under the watchful eye of French instructors as well as noncommissioned officers from the Army’s Jungle Operations Training Course, run by the 25th Infantry Division, in Hawaii.

After completing jungle training, the soldiers stayed on in Gabon for Central Accord, an annual exercise that brings together partner nations from Central Africa to train and practice conducting peacekeeping operations.

Capt. Zachary Schaeffer, the commander of B Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, said the jungles of Gabon are nothing like he nor his soldiers had ever seen.

“In the past couple months, 3-7’s dealt with the swamps at Fort Polk, we’ve been to Fort Irwin and Fort Bliss working through the desert, and, of course, we train at Fort Stewart,” he said. “But we’ve never really encountered the jungle and humidity we have here on the equator in Gabon.”

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Image courtesy of US Army