Jim Mattis Watched Indonesian Troops Drink Snake Blood, Roll in Glass and Headbutt Concrete Bricks

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis watched as Indonesian troops drank snake blood, rolled on glass and broke flaming bricks with their heads in a performance on January 24. Zachary Fryer-Biggs

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis watched as soldiers drank snake blood, rolled in glass and headbutted concrete bricks during a rare military demonstration by Indonesian troops in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Pentagon chiefs are accustomed to seeing foreign forces carry out more routine military demonstrations during foreign travel and, ahead of Wednesday's event, the press traveling with Mattis was expecting a hostage rescue drill.

The ceremony at Indonesia's armed forces headquarters was far more theatrical, however, even featuring a blindfolded soldier shoot out a balloon held between the legs of one of his colleagues. At least one shot missed and injured the soldier who gritted his teeth through the pain until he was out of the main performance area.

To the sounds of beating drums, the Indonesian soldiers performed a series of gripping martial arts techniques, breaking what appeared to be concrete bricks with their heads. They also smashed stacks of burning blocks with their hands.

Wearing a hood to blind him, one knife-wielding Indonesian soldier slashed away at a cucumber sticking out of his colleague's mouth, coming just inches from striking his nose with the long blade.

Perhaps the highlight was a demonstration involving live snakes, which Indonesian forces brought out in bags and scattered on the ground, just feet from where Mattis was standing. That included a King Cobra, which widened its neck as if it were going to attack.

The soldiers then cut off the snake heads and fed the snake blood to each other, as the crowd looked on. At least one Indonesian soldier bit a snake in half.

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Soldiers headbutted flaming bricks during the performance held at Indonesia's armed forces headquarters. Zachary Fryer-Biggs

At the end of the demonstration, to the tune of the movie Mission Impossible, the Indonesian forces lunged out of helicopters with police dogs to carry out a staged terrorist hostage rescue operation. One of the dogs jumped through a window to "attack" one of the gunmen.

"As you can see, the dogs bit the terrorist," the narrator concluded.

Mattis appeared to enjoy the demonstration, which came at the end of a three-day visit to Indonesia, and spoke about how the Indonesian forces were smart to wear the snakes down before trying to handle them.

"The snakes! Did you see them tire them out and then grab them? The way they were whipping them around—a snake gets tired very quickly," he told reporters as he flew to Vietnam.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared to enjoy the demonstration, which marked the end of his three-day visit to Indonesia. Zachary Fryer-Biggs

On Sunday, Mattis left the U.S. to embark on a week-long tour of Southeast Asia. After leaving Indonesia, Mattis's next stop is Vietnam. Both countries on Mattis's tour list have recently developed their militaries to push back against China's territorial claims.

Mattis unveiled a National Defense Strategy Friday, which directs the Pentagon to focusing on "restoring American's competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China."

According to The Diplomat, Indonesia and Vietnam are two countries that will play a key part in Washington's plan to build and "promote a free and open Indo-Pacific."

With additional reporting by Zachary Fryer-Biggs.