In modern warfare, vehicles powered by internal combustion engines and rolling on wheels or flexible tracks have largely replaced pack animals used in earlier days.
In modern warfare, vehicles powered by internal combustion engines and rolling on wheels or flexible tracks have largely replaced pack animals used in earlier days. The U.S. Army has long since switched its emphasis in training and tactics from the black smith to the mechanic. But even today with all the mechanical advances there are requirements for mobility which are best met by the special collection of characteristics possessed by four legged, sure footed, beasts of burden.....especially in Southeast Asia. To meet these requirements the Army has dusted off the old training manuals and begun training of the first Royal Thai pack mule squadron.
The squadron is being trained at Mae Rim in northern Thailand, between Burma and Laos, the same area in which they will work once operational. The terrain, heavily forested mountains not serviced by roads, causes serious problems in moving government men and equipment against communist terrorists operating in the area. Even helicopters are largely ineffective because of heavy cloud cover on the peaks and lack of suitable landing sites.
The initial course of instruction is being conducted by U. S. Army Veterinary Advisor, Major John C. Ottenberg, park Forest, Illinois and Staff Sergeant Robert B. Parker, Redding, California. Once trained; however, Thai Army instructors will conduct the course.
During the training the men are taught basic horsemanship, knot tying, loading the animals, saddling and stirrup adjustment and the proper methods for caring for the animals including currying, brushing and foot care.
The mules must also be trained. They are taught how to carry riders, the 200-pound packs, and how to follow and lead in a pack train.
Currently the pack mule squadron has approximately 200 mules, but long range plans call for 1,200 animals. This unit is expected to be operational by the end of this year.