The United States military maintains a larger operational footprint than the armed forces of any other nation on earth. With troops stationed or deployed to literally hundreds of different locations around the globe, a naval presence in most heavily trafficked waterways, and ongoing combat or advisory operations going on in half a dozen countries at any given time, it’s safe to say that American troops are expected to be able to operate and excel in any environment this planet has to offer.
One way America tries to maintain that competitive edge is through joint international training exercises like the annual Cobra Gold drills held in the Kingdom of Thailand. These recurring multinational, multi-service exercises are among the largest in the Pacific, and grant American troops the opportunity to not only train in the jungles of Southeast Asia, but to train alongside the Thai soldiers who live and work there. American troops attending Cobra Gold drills participate in three phases of training, the first of which is live fire exercises, the second are command level war-games, and the third is community outreach with the Thai people.
In this video, captured during a Thai jungle survival class put on for soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division in 2014, you can watch a Thai instructor demonstrate how to subdue a venomous cobra using only his bare hands. It’s hard to say whether or not this is a real survival skill or if it’s just the deep jungle version of a party trick, but it has become something of a tradition for American soldiers and Marines to drink the blood of cobras–not strictly as a part of their jungle survival training, but also as a “show of strength.”
Of course, before you drink the cobra blood, you’ve got to get your hands on it. Some folks might be happy to shoot the cobra from ten feet out with a small gauge shotgun (at least that’s how some of us learned to deal with snakes here in the states) but the Thai military takes the “show of strength” part a bit more literally than that–handling and catching the cobras with their bare hands instead.
Of course, cobra handling isn’t the main function of the jungle survival course, but it does tend to be the most dramatic part in the local and international press (as you may have noticed from the flurry of camera snaps throughout each video). American service members are also taught which vegetation is safe to eat, where to locate clean drinking water, and how to prepare some of the local wildlife (including cobra) for consumption using a small fire. Americans have also been known to chow down on scorpions, geckos, and a wide variety of bugs before they’re through with the course.