Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia –
Your plane crashes in the middle of nowhere; you have no idea where you are. Now you and the other survivors must try to find help but also stay alive with whatever you can find.
This was the scenario a platoon of Mongolian Armed Forces service members played out with the direction of their MAF and U.S. instructors from June 21-29 throughout the endless miles of open land at Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia, during a survival course at Exercise Khaan Quest 2014.
KQ14 is a regularly scheduled, multinational exercise hosted annually by Mongolian Armed Forces and co-sponsored this year by U.S. Army, Pacific, and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. KQ14 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote regional peace and security. This year marks the 12th iteration of this training event.
During the first day of their journey, the service members learned how to safely rappel with the instruction of U.S. Marines Staff Sgt. Gayle L. Anders and Sgt. Gustavo A. Pesquera. Anders is the operations chief for 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Pesquera is an instructor at the Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan.
“We rappelled off the side of a large rock area on our first day,” said MAF Maj. Z. Bayarsaikhan, an instructor of the course. “We practiced, team by team, climbing with and without equipment.”
Once they were proficient in climbing and rappelling, the men stayed at the top of the mountain for the next two days and then followed the ridge line to the forest to spend a few more days.
The service members practiced a number of survivor skills, such as starting a fire, collecting and purifying water, building shelter, crossing water, and land navigation, according to Pesquera, a San Juan, Puerto Rico, native.
“The Mongolians exceeded (expectations) in everything,” said Pesquera. “Land navigation was actually what they loved the most; they didn’t know how to do land nav. They had old compasses and only knew how to point north and navigate from there. So we taught them how to use the compasses and do different things with them.”
The service members were unable to catch and eat large animals they came in contact with, like cows and sheep, because they were training close to a reservation.
“We’ve been eating what we can find, like grasshoppers and bugs,” said MAF Capt. N. Gerelbadrakh, an instructor of the course.
The MAF service members often combined their skills and knowledge with the new tactics the instructors taught, often making a whole new method, according to Pesquera.
“They are fast learners and hard workers,” said Pesquera. “Every time we taught them how to do something, they’d teach us how they do it. So it was a pretty good experience because it was a different way of seeing things.”
All service members participating learned new skills and successfully survived nine days in the wilderness before they hiked roughly 10 kilometers to return to the KQ14 training site.
“We shared our information with each other,” said Gerelbadrakh. “This has been absolutely fun. We’ve learned some useful and necessary training during this course, like how to survive mountain and forest areas. The survival course is so useful for us. So the guys want to continue this next year.”