With support from regionally aligned forces from the Second Brigade of the First Infantry Division bases in Fort Riley, Kansas, US Army Africa recently trained more than 4 000 troops in Chad, Guinea, and Malawi.
This, as with other USARAF training efforts, continues to provide different African nations with help in securing their own borders, thereby helping them secure the region, and protecting US interests.
“Second Brigade did an incredible amount of work in preparation and training. They lived in austere environments and worked with our African partners to improve the level of training and preparation for a UN deployment. They leveraged their experiences and improved bilateral relationships during interaction with the host nations.” said Major Lee Torres.
Sergeant Major John Dudas from USARAF Operations and Plans agreed.
“The junior non-commissioned officers and soldiers assigned should be recognized for their work during these missions. They are the ones who executed the plans and should be given the proper credit. Once empowered to do the mission, they were confident and competent in their duties.”
USARAF’s mission of protecting and defending national security interests is accomplished by strengthening African land forces. USARAF leveraged relationships with partner nations like the United Kingdom to provide a multi-national approach to training. USARAF partnered with the British Peace Support Training Team in South Africa to train and mentor the Malawi Infantry Battalion.
“By helping Africans help themselves, it means that we don’t have to get involved ourselves. If Africans are solving African problems, then the US government doesn’t have to use the US Army to solve African problems. By having a conglomerate of nations in the African Union going into a particular country to help fix that nation’s problems, American servicemen won’t have to go into ‘that’ country to help fix that problem,” said Major Albert Conley III, USARAF’s Counter Terrorism Desk Officer for International Military Engagements.
Training troops in Chad, Guinea and Malawi is an example of the impact USARAF’s training is making on the continent to prevent atrocities and provide a stabilising influence.
“Patrolling, fixed-site defence, and live fire training were central tasks presented to all three countries. In Malawi, it was one third US and two-thirds British Army who provided the training. We provided the live-fire training and they provided the rest,” Dudas said
The goal of the training in Chad, Guinea and Malawi was to assist African partners in preparation for United Nations peacekeeping operations which their respective governments have accepted from the world body.
“USARAF remains flexible and prepared to assist our African partners when governments request military training and mentoring through the respective Senior Defence Official/Defence Attaché and US Embassies. In all three countries, the governments requested US military assistance as they prepared to assume the responsibility of a UN Troop Contributing Country.”
The training was linked to UN standards in peacekeeping operations utilising the UN Infantry Battalion Manuals Volumes I and II as reference.
“Each country received training and instructions in Human Rights and Protection of Civilians based on UN vignettes. The US training teams also utilised their experiences to conduct and incorporate the vignettes. Using the UN MONUSCO Specialized Training Materials (STM), US military trainers developed training that incorporated the scenarios to be part of pre-deployment preparation with focus on relevant mission-specific challenges in the DRC,” Torres said.
But it’s more than just training, Colonel John “Boone” Ruffing, USARAF Security Co-operation director said, it’s about developing an ethical-based mentality throughout the training – and this is what USARAF focuses on as it works with its partners.
“From battalion commander on down, we try to provide mentors to work, shape, mould and coach these young minds. We want to train a battalion that is more than just ‘a battalion;’ showing them it’s more than the flag on their shoulder, it’s about a greater need,” Ruffing said.
He said expertise in understanding the environment in Africa is very limited.
“When I came in the Army in the 80s, a lot of people knew about Latin America. We spent the 70s and 80s in Latin America. Now since the 90s, we have a lot of people who know about the Middle East, and have operated in the Middle East. Now we are developing expertise about Africa using the Regionally Aligned Forces concept and learning the culture, the language, how to operate in the various environments and the regional orientation. We have a new generation of soldiers who are learning a lot about Africa — appreciating and wanting to be involved in Africa is something we haven’t had in a long time,” Ruffing said.
The US Army is a learning organisation that is ever changing, according to Ruffing.
“After 12 years of war, we were used to having a fairly large, sustained logistics trail to sustain us wherever we were — we don’t have any of that in Africa. The challenge is going back to the way we used to be in the Army and that is to be expeditionary, to live in austere environments, to rely on partners for sustainment. Everything we do on the continent, we want to do it in good faith and in a transparent way not only for our government, but for our African partner nations too.”