SEPTEMBER 12, 2016, NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia – Without food, water or shelter, thirty participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and Army, Australian Army, and the People’s Liberation Army have survived inside the outback. Marines and soldiers from the three countries had to work together during Exercise Kowari, a survival training exercise, from August 27 to September 9 near Daly River Region, Northern Territory, Australia.
“It’s up to all of us to accomplish the bigger goal and that is survival,” said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph L. Painter, an Exercise Kowari participant.
All rank, patches and units were removed and participants were placed into three mixed groups of ten.
“The exercise brings the three militaries together in a non-military environment to build problem solving, leadership and teamwork,” said Warrant Officer Class 2 Lee R. Symons, a survival training instructor.
Survival training instructors from the North-West Mobile Force, a regional force surveillance unit of the Australian Army, provided the participants with training needed to help them overcome the difficult challenges of the Australian outback. The classes included a large range of basic survival skills such as making shelters and friction fires.
“Learning from the instructors was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had,” said Australian Army soldier Cpl. Jarrod Clune, an Exercise Kowari participant. “Their collective knowledge in the field of survival is impressive to say the least.”
During the survival phase, the Marines and soldiers had to put their newly acquired skills to the test. They unwillingly gave up their survival kits and were left to survive without food, water or shelter for five days.
With the dry season coming to an end, the heat kept creeping up becoming more and more unbearable every day.
“This takes the cake on the hottest place I’ve ever been in my entire life,” said Painter, a rifleman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin.
Participants also came across all kinds of Australian wildlife, including crocodiles, snakes and insects.
“It’s a challenge getting over that mental aspect of everything that is out here,” said Painter, from Nixa, Missouri.
While protecting themselves from the environment, participants had to find their own food and water. They fought dehydration and starvation by using water purifying techniques and hunting and cooking whatever they could get their hands on, including wallabies, turtles and fish.
“I can’t believe I can live in a world without anything,” said People’s Liberation Army soldier Cpl. Ruiliang Mai, an Exercise Kowari participant. “I learned a lot of things here from the Americans and Australians.”
The participants started with nothing and left the exercise with a new range of skills.
“In that two week period, you can actually see a result,” said Lee, the survival activity manager.
Exercise Kowari is the first land-based trilateral military exercise involving soldiers and Marines from the United States, Australia and China. The purpose of the exercise is to enhance the United States, Australia, and China’s friendship and trust, through trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.