BAN DAN LAN HOI, Thailand (Feb. 17, 2014) -- Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, participated in multiple Thai led Jungle Survival Training classes here throughout the month of February, as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2014.

The Jungle Survival Training class was designed to familiarize Soldiers with skills necessary for surviving in jungle terrain for extended periods of time with little or no support.

The ability to gather food and water from local resources as well as identify hazards could very well save lives in future contingency missions in the Pacific.

"I was a little nervous to come to Thailand. It was my first time outside of the country," said Pvt. Jesse Merrill, an infantryman with 1-21 Inf., 2nd SBCT. "I joined the Army to visit new places and see different cultures, so it's been really cool to train here."

"This training I think is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Spc. Mathew DeJesus, an Infantryman with 1-21 Inf., 2nd SBCT. "I'm not sure if I would ever get this training without being here at Cobra Gold."

During the training the Soldiers were taught how to capture local wildlife safely and use it as a food source.

"We learned how to find food, vegetation and animal, fresh safe water and how to cook and prepare with very little materials. They had us kill the animals, prepare and cook them so we had the hands on experience," said Merrill.

"The food portion was the most exciting part, they showed us how to eat a scorpion and a live gecko, it was very cool," said DeJesus.

The highlight of the food portion of the training is always the drinking of king cobra blood, a local tradition meant to instill bravery.

"Seeing the king cobra was a little scary," said Merrill. "We were sitting so close to it when they brought it out I was a little bit nervous."

"But, I had the chance to try the cobra blood straight from the snake's body," he continued. "It was awesome. It wasn't the greatest tasting but it's a story I'll tell to people the rest of my life."

The ability to find clean drinking water from plants and food from local vegetation are key skills learned from this training. However, the time Soldiers spent working with their Thai counterparts helped to build confidence in their long-standing partnership, which is one of the main reasons for participating in Cobra Gold.

"I loved working with the Thai. They're really friendly and very helpful," said DeJesus. "They are really hands on and willing to share their culture with us. I loved every minute of it."

With the Army's growing focus on the Pacific, training such as this helps to bolster the confidence of Soldiers when operating in this type of terrain. Future operations and multi-lateral training will benefit from the experiences the Soldiers had here in Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold.

"I thought the Jungle Survival Training was neat as can be," said Merrill. "It is something totally different that I've never experienced. We learned a lot, and now I know how to live in the jungle off of plants and animals if I need to."

"I'm pretty sure I would be able to get by on the land now, whereas I probably would be hurting if I didn't get to do this training," said DeJesus. "I most definitely think I'm more prepared to operate in a jungle environment."