A Blackpool soldier is training in jungle warfare techniques deep in the rainforests of Central America.
Corporal Chris Walton, a section commander 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 former Warbreck High School pupil has been in the Army for seven years and has served in Afghanistan twice and Kenya.
He is now in Belize for a month working in energy-sapping humidity and temperatures of more than 30C.
Chris said: “Physical fitness is important here. It’s a very tough environment, especially so because of the heat – our water intake is considerably more than it would be back in the UK, and we use river water which we have to collect and purify ourselves. So that adds a further challenge.”
Chris, 28, is 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.
The sports science graduate, said: “My responsibility is to make sure the eight men under my command are getting up to a strong-enough standard of jungle operations, ahead of the final exercise towards the end of our time here.”
Perhaps the hardest training has been in Sibun Gorge. The location’s 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 the daily tests of survival, navigation and attack.
Exercise Mayan Warrior examined how well personnel adapt to such a demanding environment. Soldiers live in the wild, sleeping in tree-slung hammocks and drinking river water they purify themselves.
British Army jungle warfare instructors and soldiers from the Belize Defence Force educate the 2 LANCS personnel in how to navigate the lush featureless jungle, move through it undetected and strike enemy positions fast.
Chris, who is married to Emma and has a three-year-old son Lucas, said: “Here in the jungle it’s really hard to spot any signs of the enemy – 20 metres or less is all you can see. We’ve been practicing the way we attack and then get out of an area quickly. We’ve also been looking at casualty evacuation into a safe area.”
Major Nick Higgins, Officer Commanding Blenheim Company, added: “They’re coping really well. We have some good platoon commanders and section commanders; they make sure the lads look after their feet and drink enough water.”