jungle 1 (2)
Hard routine patrolling, 3am ish…sitting in a vicious thunder and lightening storm, using an umbrella to keep off the heavy rain and maintain my body heat. Using the storm to re hydrate myself and replenish my water bottles. Early 1980s, Bob Shepherd.
If you spend a full day in the jungle with any LRRP (Long Range Recce Patrol), you’ll have an appreciation of how to go about your daily life in any theatre, and in any job inside or outside of the military, no matter your management position.
I’ve always said that positive time spent operating in the jungle, and learning from that time, can set you up for almost anything in the future. Having to manage yourself (discipline within your own personal management), let alone the rest of the patrol, is one massive task under what could be considered by some as a very hostile environment.
In a twenty four hour period, you never stop thinking. Even lying in your hammock at night exhausted, your thinking over that day, then thinking how the next day will go having already discussed it as a patrol.
For decades now, the British special forces and others have had the jungle phase as a key component to their selection for very good reason. Way back in my day, the MOD bean counters were extremely pushy in trying to close down the jungle school for obvious bean counting reasons. Not a hint of interest as to why it’s there in the first place, and what it really brings to the table for UK forces operations and commitments around the globe. At one stage as the chief instructor of the jungle school in Brunei, I wrote and presented a paper to the MOD via a General to fight to keep it open, as I knew full well what the school means for the professionalism and skills set of the British soldier once jungle trained.
If an individual can be at one in a jungle environment, show excellent personal admin skills, good health and hygiene skills, good basic jungle soldiering skills, which includes navigation and communications as a must,  good medical skills, and good survival skills… then that individual could continue living in that environment forever. In addition, those skills can be demonstrated when taken to any other environment, as the jungle is seen as very much the harshest of all environments to show off those skills while operational or in training when carried out correctly by the individual. I’ve seen good officers and men completely crack when faced with the pressures of daily routines while not being at one with their environment under the jungle canopy.
Jungle training doesn’t come around very often for military units. It’s always angered me when some units would play at jungle training, and don’t use every minute of the day to be at one with the environment. You have to stay in the jungle and be under the canopy to understand and learn to live with it, and not continue to fight it. Many a time I’ve seen units going into the jungle in phases, coming out for breaks. If you do that, you’ve lost the jungle instinct…back out to a hot shower, switching on an electric light, the kettle, a computer, speaking in normal tones, the noise and smells of the outside world…all that was gained in the short spell inside the jungle is now lost!
From getting up from your hammock way before first light, getting out of your dry kit and into your wet kit tactically (one dry item off one wet item on, the same with socks and footwear, that way if you’re hit by the enemy early, and you need to move fast, you’re not pushing through the trees half nude or with one boot/sock on, and the other foot bare.) taking down your basha, packing everything away, leaving as little sign to no sign as possible, and sitting on your bergen ready for a first light possible attack from an unseen enemy…then off to a full day’s patrolling…again leaving as little sign as possible…undulating damp soft ground, heavy kit, high humidity…little food and water intake…finding the next evenings basha/LUP spot…another night in the hammock…getting up for “stand to” way before first light…day in day out, until the task is complete, and then extraction and back to safety.
During that time of stealth and silence, your navigation skills and communication skills to the outside world (back to HQ) are key. The longer the patrol, the more tired you become…doubting both yourself and others begin to creep in…it’s human nature if you allow it. But you can’t let that happen…”slowly slowly catchee monkey”…a great saying from the Malaya/Borneo campaigns’ veterans (although the saying originated from long before in British India). Constantly reigning yourself back, no shortcuts, take your time, get it right first time…and so it goes on. The noises and smells of the jungle live with me today, decades from my last patrol. The patrol routine from a 24 hour period comes about in my mind often. That routine has helped me many times make the decisions of the day long after my military life, and even today as a retired pensioner.
A great example of using just one of the many skills that have to be combined each day is that of navigation. Back in the days of the 70s, 80s and early 90s the maps were 1:50.000 and sometimes 1:25000, so fairly accurate with the contour lines…fairly. But not so accurate with small hills (knolls) that you would come across on the ground but not on the map…or a small hill on the map, but it’s not there on the ground! Then there was the problem of rivers and their accuracy completely missing on the map. This is because the mapping was taken by air or later satellite photography. So you had to understand that the map was taken from tree top height, and not ground level. Therefore the cartographers making the maps would have to use their experience to “guess” the lines of the rivers that are running under the canopy and can’t be seen clearly. In addition, a group of large hardwood trees pushing through the canopy could look very much like a small hill, and would therefore be put on the map as such. But when you arrive there, there is no hill. But with your own experience you can look around and see a group of large trees pushing up beyond the canopy…ah, the hill! Conversely, a small hill on the ground surrounded by small trees would not show up on the map, simply because it hasn’t pushed up through the surrounding jungle canopy. Lots to take in on patrol, lots of knowledge to gain, but as they say, knowledge dispels fear, and becoming a good navigator helps to relax the whole patrol. After all if you continually know exactly where you are, you can then concentrate on your main task of patrolling forward. On the odd occasion of not being quite sure, you simply have two choices…send off a two man recce to say confirm a stream junction that you know is slightly ahead of you…or simply move back to your last known point, and start again. When approaching a river/stream junction, always aim for one side or the other, and not the actual junction. If you decide to come off a piece of high ground down a finger ridge and aim left, know which way the water is running, check that’s the case when you get there…then all you have to do is move right until you see the junction. Nobody with the training and skills should EVER be lost in the jungle, as long as they stick by the afore mentioned!
Well, that was just a hint of one jungle patrol skill which is combined into long range reconnaissance patrolling. The mind is active constantly, enemy, movement, leaving sign, navigation, communicating, weapons and equipment state, personal camouflage and dress, resting, eating, health and hygiene, safety, sleeping…repeat. 
I didn’t go into the intricate details of patrolling, as there is still a wee bit of jungle left here and there, and I have no wish to contribute to compromising any friendly patrol in the future. But when you’re deployed as a 4 to 6 man patrol, way forward of any friendlies, your life is in your hands only. Do it well, or don’t do it at all.
In my time in the military, it was without doubt the most rewarding theatre of operations when patrolling was carried out with the utmost professionalism.
Boy, what a learning experience…that tells you everything about yourself and the others around you…and oh yes…what a hell of a management course for your next chapter in your life whatever that may be.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories Uncategorized2 Comments


  1. I went to the ‘trees’ four times with the Sqn and loved every minute of it (apart from those brief seconds when your cold wet shirt first touches the skin of your back😖!) I agree 100% with your ‘post’ mucker! And if you can ‘Soldier’ in the ‘trees’ you can ‘Soldier’ anywhere! NQNP!.

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