US Marines are learning to handle donkeys and mules before heading to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
Five Marines are currently stationed at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Centre, a remote training facility in the eastern Sierra Nevada, getting to grips with handling five donkeys and 24 mules.
In a return to tradition, the equines will be used as pack animals in Afghanistan’s rugged mountains. Military four-wheel drive vehicles and helicopters are of little use in the inhospitable terrain, where there are few roads and the air is thin.
But the mules and donkeys will make light work of the terrain, and will be employed to help transport ammunition, medical and food supplies with the Marines.
“It’s a very primitive way to carry very modern weapons, but it works” said Sgt. Joe Neal, one of the instructors at the training centre.
He told the LA Times: “They all have their own quirks and personalities — like any of the Marines you’d work with.”
The Marines are learning how to tack up the donkeys and mules, pack their loads and how to lead them.
“They can be pretty stubborn,” said one trainee.
Click here to watch a slideshow of the Marines in training.