LATHAM, N.Y. – Two firefighters will represent the New York National Guard and the United States at the Brazilian Jungle Warfare Center’s international course at the end of September.
Army Sgt. William Dunn and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Miter will spend six weeks in the Amazon rainforest learning how to navigate and fight in the jungle.
The Brazilian school was founded in 1964 and is considered the top jungle training center in the world.
Each year the school conducts an abbreviated class for military personnel from around the world at its base in Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas State.
The New York National Guard has been sending Soldiers and Airmen to the course since 2019 as part of its State Partnership Program training relationship with Brazil’s military.
Dunn, 37, a communications systems maintainer assigned to Bravo Company of the 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion, works at New York’s Engine Company 303 in South Jamaica, Queens.
Dunn joined the New York Army National Guard in 2009. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012-13 and to Kuwait in 2017-18.
Miter is a joint tactical air controller (JTAC) assigned to the 274th Air Support Operations Squadron at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse.
Miter, 33, joined the New York Air National Guard in 2006 and served as a firefighter at the 109th Airlift Wing until becoming a JTAC in 2010.
Since then, he deployed to Syria in 2019 and to the Horn of Africa in 2021.
In civilian life, Miter is assigned to the Syracuse Fire Department’s Engine 3.
Miter said he jumped at the chance to apply to attend the jungle warfare course.
“It is a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a challenge and a different experience.”
New York Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Denny Richardson said Miter would do well in the Brazilian jungle.
“He has the mental focus and physical strength that will allow him to be successful,” Richardson said.
Dunn said he volunteered because he was also looking for a challenge.
“I just threw my hat in the ring, and to my surprise, I was picked,” said Dunn, who is also qualified as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.
To prepare for the jungle warfare school, he volunteered for the Army’s Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Dunn and 107 other Soldiers completed the course in August.
Dunn, a master fitness trainer, should do well in the Amazon jungle, said New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. David Piwowarski.
“Sergeant Dunn is a professional, fit and motivated signal Soldier. His experience during two deployments and as a civilian firefighter will serve him well in high-pressure situations during the Brazilian Jungle Warfare Course,” Piwowarski said.
Those who pass the course receive a special knife with a jaguar-headed handle.
The emphasis on swimming, which involves making rafts and swimming gear down rivers home to the crocodile-like black caiman, prompted Dunn and Miter to modify their workouts.
“I changed to a lot of cardio and body weights, and I have been getting into the pool more and running,” Miter said. “I won’t say I’m a good swimmer, but I don’t think I will drown.”
Dunn has been using his in-laws’ swimming pool to improve his swimming skills.
“I put my whole uniform on, and I have been jumping in there. And I will do a couple of hours of swimming, working on the freestyle and butterfly stroke as much as I can,” Dunn said.
Miter said he was able to get lots of advice on what to expect from Tech. Sgt. Paul Cange, who also serves in the 274th and attended the school in 2021.
“The first week of getting through the physical requirements, that will be the biggest hurdle,” Miter said.
He’s looking forward to working with soldiers from other countries and visiting another continent.
Dunn, who will deploy once more with the 101st Signal next year, said he’s eager to learn skills he can pass along to other Soldiers in his unit.
“I just want to do a good job out there; that is my biggest thing, to make my unit proud,” Dunn said.