Secretary of Defense Mattis received an unusual welcome from the Indonesian troops Wednesday.
With drums banging in the background, the Kopassus — Indonesian special forces — smashed bricks with their heads, rolled over glass, walked through fire, and drank the blood of snakes in a rare demonstration for the guest of honor. The highlight of the show was when the soldiers wrangled cobras, cut off their heads, and drank their blood while troops shouted war cries. In one instance, an Indonesian soldier bit a snake in half.
The Indonesian soldiers also demonstrated their counter-terrorism capabilities, as well as their marksmanship and bladed weapons skills.
Mattis, who was reportedly seen grinning throughout the performance, spoke highly of the Indonesian troops.
“The snakes! Did you see them tire them out and then grab them?” Mattis said on the plane to Vietnam, the next stop on his tour. “The way they were whipping them around, a snake gets tired very quickly… You could imagine how much training went into each individual there, that they were able to do that… When you watch a force do that, many small things, perfectly, you can imagine that they can also put the bigger things together.”
While drinking the blood of snakes may seem strange to some, the ability to deal with snakes in the jungle is a necessary survival skill for Indonesian troops. Furthermore, in parts of Southeast Asia, displays of raw courage are generally considered a rite of passage for military men, and U.S. troops have even taken part in such rituals.
The rare show Wednesday concluded Mattis’ three-day visit to Indonesia, where the U.S. is working to strengthen military-to-military ties with the local armed forces.
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