(Read part 7 HERE)

We were now beginning to feel like soldiers. The trees are a tough environment and people were falling by the wayside at an alarming rate. I always remember one DS (Directing Staff) saying “If you imagine trying to get through a bush covered in thorns whilst its pissing down with rain in the sweltering heat, and while going up the steepest slope you ever imagined with a small house on your back, carrying your weapon and trying to remain tactical, welcome to the jungle,” he wasn’t wrong. We did a series of navigation exercises in the first two weeks where some days you did well if you travelled three kilometres. We cross-grained, that meant there was no tracks, no ridge lines and no contouring or using rivers. We went in a straight line everywhere, no matter what was in the way. If that meant moving through secondary jungle, uphill then that’s what you did.

It was a long hard way of doing things, and you were permanently soaking wet from the rain and from sweating so much. Secondary jungle is dense and very difficult to move through. But that was to our advantage. If it was difficult for use, it would be difficult for the enemy. They would have to follow us up in the harshest of places if they were going to find us. To move as a small patrol would take hours some days just to gain a few feet. Where the growth was so thick and we had to move silently, you couldn’t just hack your way through. You also needed to leave your trail how you found it. The locals would pick up on every last leaf out-of-place. Ground sign was forever being covered up and this alone could take forever. All this time learning something which was just to get you from A to B. Forget for now what to do when you get there, or how to react if you were discovered. That was a whole host of other lessons. The navigation exercises taught you how to move around.

In between navigation exercises, which usually took two or three days, we started to learn contact drills, which instruct how to react if you came into any sort of confrontation with the enemy whilst on patrol. The classic four man drill was a simple affair on the open clearings outside of the jungle. But now we were under the canopy even if your fire team only went a small way off the patrol line, you could soon lose people. When firing live rounds that could be disastrous, even in training. You had to be all over you personal skills. No spraying and praying here, you had to ensure before you pulled the trigger that’s you had clearly identified the target and that nobody was going to race in front of you as you engaged. We used iron sights. There is no use for scopes in the jungle. You need to be able to maintain some peripheral vision.