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American Forces Train Nigerien Troops

By Cpl. Enrique Saenz, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP TAHOUA, Niger, March 10, 2006 – A company of Milwaukee, Wis.-based Marine reservists has begun to teach Nigerien soldiers the basics of security and stability operations during exercise Shared Accord 06.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Thomas from the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, and a soldier from the African nation of Niger demonstrate takedown procedures for a group of dignitaries Camp Tahoua, Niger, March 9 during exercise Shared Accord 2006. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sean Worrell, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

Members of 2nd Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, held a seminar here March 8, during which they taught a platoon of soldiers in the Nigerien armed forces basic search procedures and compliance techniques as part of the exercise here March 5-18.

Shared Accord is a bilateral exercise designed to promote interoperability between the United States and the African nation of Niger. The exercise also improves the overall planning and operational capabilities of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative, a U.S. government program designed to help develop the internal security forces necessary to control borders and combat terrorism and other illegal activity.

Lance Cpls. Brandt Foltman and Pat Vanderwal led demonstrations in the proper way to approach detainees during searches. They stressed the importance of using the proper amount of force on a detainee and the value of staying alert during searches.

"The Nigeriens are being taught the fundamentals of searching a subject," said Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Connolly, platoon commander, 2nd Platoon, Company. F, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. "Searching an individual without degrading them is very important in real-world situations, like in Iraq, and they're learning to determine when a certain amount of force is necessary."

Most of the company's Marines are Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans and are well-versed in the critical skills involved with security and stability operations.

"[Security and stability] operations are important to practice to maintain security for the sake of the local infrastructure and to maintain continued security for the local populace so they can continue on with their day-to-day lives without having to be afraid of terrorism," said Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Finley, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, Company E, a platoon attached in support of the exercise.

Meeting the Nigeriens was an interesting experience to some Marines.

"I didn't know what to expect from [the Nigeriens] at first," said Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Blades, a rifleman with the battalion. "But as soon as they saw what we were teaching them, their enthusiasm to learn took over, and [they] were anxious to try the techniques on each other."

Marines teamed up with Nigerien soldiers after the class to practice search takedown techniques, a skill necessary to handle noncompliant or hostile detainees.

"The Nigeriens are getting almost exactly the same training Marines get before deploying to Iraq," Connolly said. "Before this training, according to one of their officers, their troops hadn't received any sort of search training before."

One big obstacle in teaching the French-speaking Nigeriens was the language barrier. The Marines quickly overcame the obstacle using their Iraqi experiences.

"We had the same problem with the Iraqi National Guard," Blades said. "But luckily, the Nigeriens spoke a little English and we spoke a little French, and we met somewhere in the middle. After we showed them physically what to do and how to do it, everything ran smoothly."

Earlier this year, a small group U.S. troops trained with Nigerien forces and gave them a taste of the training the U. S. had to offer.

"Instead of having five troops train 150 troops, the Marines are going to train each Nigerien individually," said Marine Master Sgt. Michael Winiecki, Camp Tahoua commandant, about the training that will continue until March 18. "Like in the School of Infantry, the Marines will train the Nigeriens by the numbers and correct them when they need correcting. Also, our officers will train with theirs to improve their command and control capabilities."

As well as helping improve their military, Shared Accord 06 aims at improving the health and well being of the Nigerien people through several humanitarian aid projects. Elements of the Marines' 4th Medical Battalion, the Army's 404th Civil Affairs Battalion and the Air Force's 444th Aerospace Medical Squadron will provide humanitarian assistance in the form of limited medical and dental exams and renovation projects.

"The [444th AMS] will go to local towns and give out vitamins and take care of the people's immediate, treatable needs," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Zwolski, 2nd Battalion's surgeon. "The Air Force will also provide dental treatment to the Nigeriens that need it."

(Marine Cpl. Enrique Saenz is assigned to Marine Forces Europe.)

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