A Union Mills soldier is training in jungle warfare techniques deep in the rainforests of Central America.
Sergeant John Quaggan, a platoon sergeant with the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, is working alongside the Belize Defence Force (BDF) - some of the world’s best tropical warriors.
The 31-year-old has been in the Army for 15 years and has served in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Germany, the Falklands, Kenya, Canada and Iraq twice. He is now in Belize for a month working in energy-sapping humidity and temperatures of 30°C.
John has 29 soldiers under his command including a number of Belizean soldiers. He said: ‘They are absolutely brilliant in the jungle. We’ve been able to share a lot of skills: they get used to working alongside a professional Army, but they teach us an awful lot about living and fighting in this environment.’
He’s in Belize along with more than 100 others from the battalion’s Blenheim Company, learning how to survive and fight in some of the toughest conditions on the planet.
John, who is married to Stacey and has three daughters Broghan, six, Keevagh, three and eight-month-old Tarryn, said: ‘It’s a really hard environment to look after yourself in and so if you can soldier here you can soldier anywhere in the world. It’s hot, sweaty and we’re out all day so we’re drinking quite a lot of water.’
Perhaps the hardest training has been in Sibun Gorge whose natural beauty hides a deadly arsenal of snakes including the giant boa constrictor and the venomous Fer de Lance. The region’s dense vegetation, hilly terrain and still air, thick with humidity, add an extra dimension to daily tests of survival, navigation and attack.
Exercise Mayan Warrior tests how well personnel adapt to such a demanding environment. Soldiers live in the wild, sleeping in tree-slung hammocks and drink river water they purify themselves. They are taught how to navigate the jungle undetected and strike enemy positions fast and hard from close quarters.