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Okinawa, Japan. (August 31, 2023): In this photo by Corporal Michael Taggart, Marine Corps Sergeant Zachary Thacker negotiates an obstacle as part of the endurance portion of Jungle Leaders training at the Jungle Warfare Center at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa. The course is designed to assess both the physical and psychological resilience of Marine leaders in a harsh jungle environment. Thacker, from Paducah, Kentucky, is a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.

As the nation’s focus has shifted away from Middle Eastern deserts to jungle-based operations, the Marines have taken steps to cope with maneuvering in dense jungles with high overhead canopies that make reconnaissance extremely challenging.

The Jungle Warfare Training Center Camp is one of two jungle warfare training centers in the Department of Defense. Here the Marines learn to navigate through the dense jungle, repel down steep cliffs, and improve their ability to patrol through dense vegetation and steep jungle terrain. Marines learned to thrive in harsh, tropical environments while practicing basic jungle survival skills including jungle medicine, land navigation, observation techniques. Following the classes, the Marines conducted practical application of what they learned through different mission sets and in particular the art of “Stalking" their prey. Stalking someone may be frowned upon in civilian life but is a highly prized skill for Marine reconnaissance and sniper teams.

Marines worked in teams to approach, observe, and evade potential targets that were constantly changing as they would in a real-life situation. For all the fancy innovative technologies that have emerged for reconnaissance, it is still well-trained Marines with their boots in the mud that provide the best intelligence on the enemy in the jungle.