The Army soldiers finished wading across a stream in a Hawaiian rainforest, their boots and socks waterlogged, their clothes, hair, and ears caked with mud. The soldiers were training at the first jungle school the US Army has established in decades, designed to train for exercises and potential combat on terrain that looks more like the Pacific than arid Afghanistan and Middle East deserts, the AP reports. Brig. Gen. Stephen Michael, deputy commander of the 25th Infantry Division, said the Army set up the school as its footprint was shrinking in Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war there. Ever since the turn of the 20th century, the Army has fought in tropical rainforests, including in Vietnam. Yet the Army gave up its jungle training school in Panama in 1999.
Now, surviving and fighting in tropical rainforests has captured the Army's interest again. In 2013, it set up a jungle school at Schofield Barracks, an Army post near Waikiki. The Army sent soldiers to military jungle schools in Brazil and other tropical spots to reacquire long-lost skills, with instructors-in-training pouring over old Army jungle manuals. "We had to relearn everything," says one of the school's first instructors. What's also had to be tweaked: uniforms, how the soldiers carry gear, and developing the mental stamina to persevere in such a challenging environment. The jungle school is an outgrowth of former President Obama's "pivot" to Asia and the Pacific; it's unclear whether President Trump will keep a similar emphasis. "The Army has to train to fight everywhere," says a Hawaii Pacific University military studies professor. "This is ... the missing piece."