BAMAKO, Mali – As the temperature hits 120 degrees on a typical sunny afternoon May 13, 2010, in Mali’s desert region, the Malians and Senegalese soldiers continue training harder than when the day started. U.S. special operations forces (SOF) from Special Operations Task Force – 103, who serve as trainers, feed off their African partner’s motivation and continue with classes on small unit tactics, movements and convoy vehicle recovery drills.
Since mid-April, the U.S. SOF soldiers have trained with their African nation counterparts as part of Exercise Flintlock 10. The special forces exercise is focused on military interoperability and capacity-building and is part of an AFRICOM-sponsored annual exercise program with partner nations in Northern and Western Africa. Flintlock 10, which includes participation of key European nations, is conducted by Special Operations Command Africa and designed to build relationships and develop capacity among security forces throughout the Trans-Saharan region of Africa.
“I am very grateful for us to receive this training,” said the commander of the Malian Airborne company being trained. “We have soldiers from all over to discuss techniques and tactics and it has been very beneficial for us.”
Over the last few weeks, the U.S. SOF advisors have focused training on close-quarter battle drills, battlefield medical treatment, and mission planning and movement – classes deemed necessary for the Malian and Senegalese soldiers to be able to conduct direct action raids on enemy targets.
“These are the kinds of techniques we can use against al-Qaeda,” said the Malian captain. “They are moving fast. They are not staying in one place, they are always moving. These techniques will help us fight them.”
According to one U.S. SOF soldier training the African soldiers, the focus of the training is to conduct direct-action missions, with a secondary emphasis on team mobility through desert terrain.
“The ultimate goal at the end is to have them run their own missions, from start to finish,” he said.
While the Malians and Senegalese are eager to learn the techniques of the elite U.S. soldiers, they face a major challenge of not being able to fund equipment, supplies and vehicles which may effect them being able to sustain the training.
“They are eager to learn more everyday; the only question will be if they are able to maintain these skills once we leave,” said the U.S. SOF soldier.
As training concludes for the day, the SOF trainers conduct a review with their African counterparts and explain what’s planned for the coming days. When the Malians and Senegalese are released, they begin to sing and dance, knowing they did well for the day, but much more work lies ahead.
Approximately 1,200 European, African Partner Nation and U.S. personnel from 14 nations are involved in military interoperability activities across the Trans-Saharan region during Flintlock 10.