U.S., French soldiers prove desert survival is for the fittest

U.S. and French soldiers prove desert survival is for the fittest by completing phase two of the French Desert Survival Course, preparing them to not only survive, but complete their mission in the subtropical desert climate of Djibouti.



By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Combat Training Center at Arta Beach, Djibouti Jan 18, 2016
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Many people might wonder if they could simply survive in a desert with limited equipment, food and water. For soldiers located in the subtropical desert climate of Djibouti, they need to not only survive, but also complete their mission.

The French Desert Survival Course prepares hundreds of U.S. and French military members to perform a variety of tasks at such a demanding duty assignment.

French soldiers deployed to the region and U.S. soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa completed phase two of the course near Arta Beach, Djibouti, Jan. 13, 2016.

The nearly month-long course for infantrymen consists of up to seven phases that teach participants combat lifesaving skills, field tactics, land navigation, weapons training, trap setting, survival cooking, and water-source locating.

“It’s good preparation because the climate makes the course harder for us and we have to practice our [job as infantrymen] in this specific context,” said Capitaine Benoit, French Army infantry officer.

By the time the soldiers complete the course, they will have learned survival tactics, accomplished water and mountain obstacle courses and, most importantly, gained confidence.

“The hands-on experiences this course gives you really takes away the hesitation you have about if you can handle the desert environment,” said U.S. Army Spc. Michael Klaassen, Alpha Company 3-15th infantryman and student of the course.

The men and women who complete this course gain practical knowledge for surviving in austere environments, giving them the assurance they need to stay calm and apply what they’ve learned.

“[The students] get a whole lot of confidence in their own abilities and progress by being able to work with other units,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Lawrence, Alpha Company 3-15th infantryman and course assistant instructor. “This is a great way to be able to learn how to communicate with each other and work effectively.”

Communication is key in any line of work, but can be lifesaving on the battlefield.

“A lot of [the training] has been physical, and we’ve really come together as a team,” Klaassen said. “Communication skills have really developed with our platoon alone, which helps us get past these obstacles even faster.”

As a merit to their hard work and completion of the course, soldiers will earn the desert commando badge – a qualification and honor coveted by officer and enlisted soldiers alike.

“For us it’s a good opportunity to work with other countries because we have to exchange our practices. From the high level to the privates, we have to understand each other, so it’s very good for us,” Benoit said

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