Even a private has a good chance of preventing a few of the snafus likely to afflict him in a jungle conflict or war. If your unit is likely to be deployed to a tropical country, or if your outfit is in a continuing jungle confrontation, you should:

(1) Buy a waterproof compass, preferably a Silva Ranger Type 15CL Compass, or a Silva Wrist Type 24W Compass. Both are described in Chapter 10, with sources given.

Every jungle soldier should have a reliable waterproof compass, even if his squad has a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and transmitter and appropriate maps to keep informed of its exact position. Complicated high-tech equipment can malfunction or be broken, and particularly in jungle conflicts and during night operations soldiers often become separated from their units.

No waterproof compasses have been issued to individual American soldiers since World War II. A Marine is “...usually forbidden by his commander to purchase civilian items to make up for the inadequacies of his issue,” according to Major Dirk J. Vangeison in “Better Gear, Lighter Loads,” his article in the August 1992 Marine Corps Gazette. However, I haven’t heard of any Marine being prohibited from carrying a waterproof compass.

(2) Get and carry 1-oz meteorological balloons or other ultra-lightweight, dependable balloons to help you swim while carrying a combat load. (See Chapter 1.) Or buy updated M-16 rifle bags that can be used as reliably airtight flotation devices, if such bags again become available. Packing bulky life jackets during footmobile jungle operations is impractical.

Not since World War II have commanding officers been able to obtain and issue to their men significant numbers of balloons or breath-inflated flotation bladders. Colonel J. Prugh Herndon, an innovative National Guard officer, got many meteorological balloons and issued them to most of the jungle infantrymen in his 158th Infantry Regimental Combat Team, after it fought its initial battles in New Guinea. Will American jungle soldiers have to wait until another of our wars in the tropics is taken seriously before being issued lightweight devices to keep them from drowning?

(3) Reduce chances of drowning, and/or of adding pounds of rainwater or river water to your load, by carrying your poncho, poncho liner, rations, etc. in plastic bags inside your pack.

(4) Remove stitched-on reinforcements from crotch and seat of your hot weather uniform before wearing it during jungle combat operations. Under humid tropical conditions, within a few days insulating layers of cloth cause skin troubles, worst between the legs. (See Chapter 12.)

(5) Use two aerosol spray cans of 0.5% permethrin to treat a uniform twice, to make it repel/kill biting pests for a couple of weeks. You may not be issued a jungle uniform that has been totally impregnated with permethrin, or not be issued a kit containing two plastic bags and two very small bottles of 40% permethrin with which to impregnate one of your uniforms. But you or friends can buy widely available aerosol spray cans of 0.5% permethrin.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in some year after 1996 may permit individual Americans and non-military organizations to buy 40% permethrin concentrate in the United States. Then you and/or family members can totally impregnate your uniforms, other garments, and mosquito net to make them repel and kill arthropods for many months. (See Chapter 13 and its Appendix for instructions.)

(6) Prevent mosquitoes and other biting pests from biting you, while at the same time enabling your skin to dry out and keep healthy by:

(7) Persuade members of your family or friends to supply you with homemade dust-and-sand-protective M-16 rifle bags (as described in Chapter 7 and its Appendix) if you can't buy good factory made ones. Or buy good factory-made M-16 rifle bags if available from a civilian source, as they were by mail order from Brigade Quartermasters early in 1995. Even if your outfit begins to issue good 2-oz. M-16 bags, they probably will be in short supply.

To keep sand and grit from getting into M-16 magazines, ordinary pleated sandwich bags serve quite well. (See Chapter 7.)

(8) Report deficiencies of equipment to concerned officials and officers, especially to visiting Inspector General officers. If enlisted men and junior officers do not speak up, higher commanders typically will not learn about “little” problems that frequently lead to jungle soldiers becoming casualties and/or having reduced morale.