US Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, are spending two weeks training joint forces from West African nations and exchanging their shared experiences of non-lethal weapons and crowd-control tactics, as part of Exercise Western Accord.
“[These nations] came forward and requested us to train them in this,” said Major William T. Jacobs, company commander with Lima Company, 3/25.
All the nations participating in Western Accord 2012 belong to the Economic Community of West African States — a united front of African nations that have banded together for common economic benefit.
“You can clearly see how this fits into their ECOWAS goals,” said Jacobs. “The best way for unity and peace is to train to be able to put down civil unrest without taking lives.”
The crowd control training will teach the basics of baton work, use of shields, forming a shield line, keeping rhythm in the line, and the deployment of “snatch teams” that are used to acquire and detain high-value individuals, such as a riot leader.
“First thing we did was find out what kind of experiences they had because it’s a possibility they have more real-world experience in these kinds of scenarios than us,” said Sergeant Jonah L. Saylers, an instructor for non-lethal weapons and crowd control techniques from Lima Company, 3/25.
“We also want to know what they can teach us. We’re very open to learning new techniques,” said Salyers.
The various West African nations participating in the exercise – Burkina Faso, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea – will join together for more training operations, to include: combat marksmanship; cordon, search and seizure; limited disaster-response capabilities; military operations in urban environments; demolition training; convoy operations; and intelligence capabilities seminars.
“Of all the training, this might be one of the more valuable ones that they will be using in a real-world environment when they go back to their countries,” said Salyers.
Despite a language barrier, the Marines are able to conduct the training evolution successfully using key French words and a common understanding of the mission at hand.
“We have interpreters out here and we are also learning some basic words in French like “strike” and “push,'” said Salyers. “The Marines are picking up the key words. The message is definitely getting across and they are doing great.”
The whole evolution was put to practice with a riot scenario at the end of the training day that included Marines simulating rioters and members of the West African forces forming a shield line, marching to suppress the civil unrest and detain the riot leader.
“It’s been a really great experience being able to share and work with our African partners,” said Lance Corporal Ryan M. Logan, an assistant gunner, Lima Company, 3/25.
“I think it’s important for us to be on the same level of training as much as we can be,” said the Huber Heights, Ohio native.
Exercise Western Accord 2012 is a multi-lateral training exercise with West African nations to increase understanding and interoperability, prevent conflict by enabling Africans to provide for their security and stability, strengthen relationships with partner nations, and promote and support U.S. national security priorities. The training will continue until July 24 at which point the U.S. and African troops will re-deploy back to their home countries.