US troops drink cobra blood, learn jungle survival in Thailand during Cobra Gold
By CARLOS M. VAZQUEZ II | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2019
U.S. soldiers drank blood from cobras and water from the trunks of banana trees, survival skills their hosts taught them this week during the Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand this year.
Participants in the annual multinational exercise, one of the largest and longest-running in the world, consider its survival training a highlight of the event. Soldiers of the U.S. Army 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, and Royal Thai Armed Forces took part in training Wednesday at Phitsanulok, Thailand.
Thai instructors shared with the Americans their knowledge of food and water sources in the jungle. Drinking the still-warm blood of the namesake reptile is more than a show of bravado; it’s a life-sustaining measure.
“They taught us a lot, and it’s something you put in the back of your head just in case something ever happened to you,” said U.S. Army Spc. Louis Smith in a video interview released Wednesday by the U.S. military, after the survival training. “You learned what you can eat and what you can find.”
No surprise that cobra blood tastes like blood, Smith said in the video; “but it gives you that special little warm feeling.”
Thai instructors also taught the Americans how to find water at the base of a banana tree, which insects are good to eat and how they can also lead someone to water.
“I didn’t know that ants are a trace of water, wherever they are [going], they know the location of water,” said Smith, of Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. “That is something I would take back home and teach other people.”
The 38th annual, 11-day exercise, officially known as Cobra Gold 19, concludes Feb. 22. The exercise brings together 27 other nations, including Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore. China and India take part in civic action parts of the exercise.
Royal Thai Armed Forces Master Sgt. 1st Class Saengchai Seeuthai pours cobra blood into the mouth of a U.S. soldier of the 20th Infantry Regiment during exercise Cobra Gold 19 at Phitsanulok, Thailand, on Feb. 13, 2019.
ROBERT G. GAVALDON/ U.S. MARINES