Building A Better Jungle Soldier: 25th ID Hosts Jungle Environment Working Group

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Alvin Conley
  • 25th Infantry Division

As the Army continuously transforms to maintain an asymmetric advantage against near peer threats, innovative minds are gathering in the Pacific to develop materiel solutions. At the forefront of this advantage, and land power in the Pacific, are the Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division.

Known for operating in squad-size elements efficiently and effectively in jungle environments across the Indo-Pacific, Tropic Lightning Soldiers are equipped with mission-specific equipment to ensure war fighting mastery and mission success.

Aimed at further increasing the lethality of its formation, the 25th Inf. Div., along with Project Manager Soldier Survivability and the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, held a Jungle Environment Leadership Working Group summit Jan. 22-25, 2024.

The working group was held for military leaders from multiple U.S. military branches across the island of Oahu to speak with PEO Soldier affiliates about establishing a priority list of materiel modernization efforts and acquisition strategies for Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment (OCIE) and protection specific to the jungle environment.

“This is a great opportunity to talk about jungle specific equipment and make us more capable throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Haynie, the 25th Inf. Div. and U.S. Army Hawaii command sergeant major. “During the working group, there are no bad ideas, so be innovative. I think this is an awesome opportunity to help shape the future.”

During the working group leaders discussed some of the issues currently facing uniforms and equipment for jungle affiliated Soldiers, and proposed ideas and solutions about ways to combat those issues.

“The land domain is essential for U.S. Air Force operations since airfields are integral to air power generation,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Beene, assigned to Security Forces Future Operations Branch, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. “Land-based air operations in the Indo-Pacific theater have, historically, necessitated understanding of an adaptation to the geography and climate to successfully launch and recover aircraft. It is imperative that we develop a good, collaborative understanding of anticipated operating environments so that we can tailor unit and individual preparation accordingly.”

Equipment such as a new jungle boot, load carrying systems, hydration systems, head armor, and technological innovations were all discussed at length with program offices, allowing leaders and experts from different echelons to provide unfiltered perspectives on what works for them and why.

“Lightning Academy, and the Jungle Operations Training Center has a unique opportunity to advance jungle warfare knowledge and gain valuable experience. One specific line of effort assigned to the Lightning Academy is to "develop and promulgate jungle expertise for the Army,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Zachary Bunn, the Jungle Operations Training Course (JOTC) and Small Unit Ranger Tactics (SURT) platoon leader, Lightning Academy, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 25th Inf. Div. “In order to continually refine our craft of jungle warfare we need to address the issues facing Soldiers and the equipment that is available to them. These advancements can improve Soldier load, efficiency, and the effectiveness of the Soldier allowing for more realistic training environments and the evolution of tactics.”

Equipment and technology implementations that may source from working groups such as this one can sometimes take years for the proposed ideas to become integrated into formations.

As the working group came to a close, participants spoke about what they hoped to see come from the summit.

“I think it’s important to not let our progress become stagnant and that we continually hold ourselves accountable to re-engage and push these initiatives even after the working group is over,” said Bunn.

Collaboration is important for any team, especially when we are attacking complex challenges such as joint war fighting,” said Beene. “Working together more regularly, through forums such as this, and growing our professional networks outside of normal channels is important to develop perspective, cooperative learning, and finding synergies through training and exchanges.”