APS-11 Marines Move from Jungle to Senegal Grasslands.
The Marines of second platoon, Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force (SCTF), Africa Partnership Station 2011 recently kicked off the Senegal chapter of APS-11’s military-to-military exchanges along the west African coast. Africa Partnership Station 2011 is a U.S. Africa Command maritime security assistance program that is designed to strengthen participating nations’ maritime security capacity through multilateral collaboration and cross-border cooperation. Marine Corps Forces, Africa is supporting APS-11 with a SCTF based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. Amid countless miles of cashew trees, savannah brush and barren Senegal desert, and together with about 100 Senegalese Commandos and Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service troops, the 45-man platoon is welcoming the close of a rigorous first week of training just outside of town here. As the training regimen picks up pace, it’s apparent to the Marines that cooperation is imperative to the success of the partnership, and is easily achieved even in a culture as different as Senegal’s. “It’s interesting to see how quickly the Senegalese learn the material despite a language barrier,” said Corporal Steven Bray, an armorer attached to second platoon. “It also helps that when we’re not training, we’re still together. We’re trying their food and they’re trying ours, we talk to each other in the evenings and we train with one another all day. It makes for a great partnership,” he added. For the Marines of second platoon, who are mostly combat veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan, a deployment founded on partnership and the exchange of ideas is a welcomed reprieve from previous combat deployments. “On a combat deployment, Marines are often patrolling and engaging in firefights,” said Corporal Brandon Blackmon, an Afghanistan campaign veteran and fire team leader for first squad, second platoon. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to take what we have learned from those experiences and bring them to the Senegalese and Nigerian military to better serve them when they go to combat.” So far, the Marines have provided periods of instruction that included fundamentals of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, intelligence gathering and analysis, foot patrolling, military operations in urban terrain, and maneuver warfare. Primarily focused on land warfare tactics, further classes will include combat marksmanship fundamentals, pistol marksmanship and static target engagement. Likewise, Senegalese and Nigerian troops are bringing forth their knowledge of combat from what they have learned from conflict in areas like the Casamance, the Congo, Darfur, and Cote D’Ivoire. ‘Riverine’ warfare is an amphibious maneuver taught by the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service that encompasses river movement in small craft, embankment landings, shore assaults, withdrawals to the river, and standard operating procedure when receiving enemy contact from shorelines. After only one week, the three nations’ militaries have come together in fostering a dynamic partnership in which Senegalese, Nigerian and Marine forces transition in leading classes and physical training. The underlying interaction between militaries, cultures and allies is what makes partnerships like these worthwhile because it promotes interoperability and fosters regional stability. “This deployment is less about the actual training [tactics, techniques, and procedures] and more about building the relationships between our militaries and between our nations,” said 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Thomas, platoon commander for second platoon and executive officer for the GCE. “The information being exchanged is helping us build a foundation that helps us understand how one another operate. New and innovative ideas are being brought up every day and the sharing of those ideas will help us all grow together,” he added. The SCTF began its deployment in Ghana in March and is slated to continue its follow-on mission at Gabon in June.