You can be a skilled marksman on an open range but enemies rarely hide in the plain sight. So how do you make your way through the jungle if there are threats all around? In the second part of a series of special reports from Belize, defence correspondent SAM BANNISTER follows infantrymen from the 2nd Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment on a live firing exercise.
Stalking across the forest floor, soldiers have to be highly alert for any enemies who may be lurking in the foliage.
Potential combatants aren’t the only hazard here as branches, vines, broken tree roots and stumps can also take you down – something to be especially avoided when you are carrying a loaded SA80 rifle or shotgun.
With the dense jungle pressing in from all sides, visibility is less than optimum and there are natural dips where anything could be hiding.
It’s not surprising then that infantrymen from the Portsmouth area on exercise in Belize have to be at the top of their game to make it through this particular live firing range. And things only heat up when the troops come under simulated attack.
‘Contact right!’ – Private Wesley Lanning shouts, dropping to the ground and firing at a target hidden among the foliage.
It teaches you what your body can do and just how much you can push yourself... and if you can do it out here, you can do it anywhere in the worldPrivate Wesley Lanning
Assessors are looking to each soldier passing through the ranges for their reaction times, aggressiveness and, of course, marksmanship.
Pte Lanning’s efforts earn nothing but praise from those watching.
The 19-year-old from Leigh Park, pictured inset left, says: ‘It has been very challenging doing this due to the heat.
‘I have never experienced heat like it before. It’s like a sauna.
‘But it has been great experience.
‘Not many people get to the jungle to do something like this.
‘It teaches you what your body can do and just how much you can push yourself.
‘And if you can do it out here, you can do it anywhere in the world.’
Around 120 troops of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2PWRR) have been sent to Belize on the tough jungle training mission.
Each of them will be required to make their way along the live firing ranges in a test of their close quarters battle skills.
As the training progresses, the scenarios will grow in scale and feature more men until the final test in the form of a company-sized assault.
Warrant Officer Colin Lewis, the company sergeant major, pictured left, says the exercise is different from anything the soldiers will have attempted before.
‘The range is extremely hard to cross and move through,’ says the 34-year-old from Buckland.
‘You’ve got the wildlife to deal with and the uneven ground which can easily trip you up. You really have to be on the ball to make it through.
‘I think the boys will take away a lot from it because it really requires you to use your soldiering skills.’
From some distance away, those waiting for their turn through the ranges sit cleaning weapons, topping up on their water intake or fending off ever-hungry mosquitos.
The sound of gunfire ripping through the jungle can be heard in the distance as a constant stream of infantrymen make their way down the range.
Private Jamie Knight, 21, from Leigh Park, says: ‘I joined the army to do things like this.
‘It’s been tough but good and we are all learning a lot from the experience.’
Pte Knight, pictured inset left, adds: ‘I have always wanted to join the army since I was younger.
‘I haven’t looked back since.’
After finishing their training on the ranges, these troops will move on to study the tactics of jungle warfare and learn how to survive in the wilderness before putting everything they have learned together for a final test.