Three commando units of the Malian Armed Forces Combined Arms Tactical Groups (GTIAs) have graduated after 10 weeks of training from the European Union Training Mission-Mali (EUTM-Mali).
According to EUTM-Mali statement, a fourth Malian commando batallion is due to graduate before the expiry of the training mandate in May next year, although there is already a proposal to extend the mission. The new Malian army units have their own armour, artillery, engineering, logistics, special forces and other operational components.
The graduation ceremony took place at the EU-run Koulikoro Military Academy on December 7 and was attended by EUTM-Mali commander General Bruno Guibert and Malian Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Mahamane Toure. The Malian soldiers were trained by 187 military instructor drawn from 18 European countries sharing the various aspects of the training programme.
“This instruction is delivered as follows: 2 weeks of basic instruction, during which basic soldier training is reviewed (shooting, topography, basic reflex movements), five weeks of specialized training (infantry, engineering, artillery, armoured squadron, commando, sharp shooters, tactical air control, logistics) and three weeks of combined arms activities with a final battalion-level exercise lasting 3 days,” the EUTM-Mali statement said.
It said each GTIA is named after an animal: Waraba (lion), Elou (elephant), and Sigui (buffalo). Their light armoured squadrons primarily use BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers, while the artillery batteries are equipped with 122 mm Grad 2M rocket launchers and Croatian 60 mm M57 mortars.
IHS Jane’s said the specialised infantry training courses include fighting in built-up areas while the engineering components have been trained in building barriers and clearing explosive ordnance.
“Each GTIA includes tactical air control patrols (TACPs) from the air force. A TACP consists of a team leader, radio operator, navigator, and driver. Their primary mission is to locate and transmit the co-ordinates of enemy positions spotted by the air force’s Humbert Tetras light reconnaissance aircraft and Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters.
“Mobility – a key asset in a country the size of Mali – is primarily provided by ACMAT Light Tactical Vehicles and ACMAT Liaison, Reconnaissance and Support Vehicles, according to EUTM-Mali. The battalions have also been seen with a variety of 4×4 vehicles, including ones armed with 14.5 mm ZPU-2 guns and .50 heavy machine guns,” the site said, quoting unnamed EUTM-Mali officers.
The EUTM-Mali station now has 560 European servicemen providing various aspects of military training to the Malian army. Its aim is to train the Malian Armed Forces so that they can be able to defend the country and maintain the security gains from the French-led military operation which pushed out Al Qaeda allied Islamic groups which had seized the north of the country following a military coup which deposed the government in April 2012.