United States Army Africa has sent personnel to Nigeria to train a Ranger Battalion in a first of a kind move to prepare Nigerian forces for full spectrum warfare. In the past the US military has mainly trained African soldiers for peacekeeping operations.
The US Army Africa (USARAF) team, along with Special Forces and general purpose forces from the National Guard, are being sent to Nigeria at the request of the Nigerian government. They will train a 650-strong ranger battalion, according to USARAF.
“What we’re doing with the Nigerian Army is helping them take a ranger battalion that already exists and provide infantry skills to enable them to go counter a threat within their country, and it is not peacekeeping — it is every bit of what we call decisive action, meaning those soldiers will go in harm’s way to conduct counter insurgency operations in their country to defeat a known threat, and it’s all purely funded by the Nigerians,” said Col. John D. Ruffing, chief of USARAF’s Security Cooperation Division. “So, they asked us for assistance, and we tailored a package that we agreed on and they influenced and help us put in parameters to work with.”
In September 2013, Maj. Liam Connor, West Africa Desk Officer escorted the Nigerian Directorate of Training to the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. “Following the visit, the Nigerian Army came back to us with a Ranger Training/Advanced Infantry Training request,” Connor said. “We worked for several months to come up with a program of instruction that stayed within the limitations of the almost $400,000 the Nigerian Army would provide us. This training was specifically requested to take them out of a peacekeeping mission set putting them more in a decisive action set to defeat and counter terrorist Boko Haram.
In two weeks’ time a team of 12 people will head to Africa for 35 days to train the ranger unit on basic and advanced infantry tactics at the Nigerian Army Training Centre. The Nigerian Army has allocated 40 of its officers and non-commissioned officers to serve as cadre.
“We will provide fundamentals of patrolling, small unit tactics, ambush/raid attack, movements of contact, night operations as opposed to the more traditional UN focused peace keeping tasks like patrolling, cordon and search, and establish checkpoints,” said Lt. Col. Vinnie Garbarino, USARAF’s International Military Engagements Officer. “We want these soldiers to take the fight to Boko Haram in the restricted terrain and really eliminate the threat within their borders so they can get back to peacekeeping operations.”
“We’re looking at future opportunities with this training centre because they’re looking at roughly 7 000 Nigerian soldiers between now and September rotating through,” Garbarino said.
Part of training will ultimately be aimed at developing a cross-border capability for Nigeria and its neighbours to combat Boko Haram threats. This will involve sharing information and coordinating operations.
Meanwhile, on Friday eight US military personnel arrived in Abuja to help with tracking down more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants last month. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that “their principal job is to advise and assist” Nigerian authorities while “providing gap analysis” for any additional help or resources they may need to conduct the mission, Defense News reports.
Also on Friday the US Marine Corps Africa completed a three-week long training course for 100 Nigerian soldiers who were schooled in amphibious and riverine warfare at the Amphibious Training School in Calabar, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.
“Over the past decades, a few challenges facing the nation have been a threat to oil exploration and economic activities in the Niger Delta area. This is as a result of the activities of criminals, and some misguided elements,” said Maj.-Gen. Bamidele Ologundudu, Director of Training, Army Headquarters.