Successful Senegal engagement for APS 13
By Sgt. Marco Mancha
| Marine Corps Forces Africa | September 26, 2013
THIES, SENEGAL --
A landing craft unit carrying dozens of international military forces dropped its gate off the sands of Senegal. The U.S. led the charge and stormed the beach like a wave crashing against the shores. They leaped off the ramp two by two, each wearing and carrying more than 50 pounds of gear, in an effort to get to dry land as quickly as possible.
The U.S. Marines and sailors of Africa Partnership Station 13 recently completed a week-long engagement with the Senegalese Companie de Fusilier Marine Commandos to further promote maritime security and partnership in the area.
Africa Partnership Station, now in its sixth year, has seen improvement in its partners’ capabilities since the start of the program. Major Kyle Andrews, the commanding officer for the ground combat element of APS 13, explained his approach in working with his Senegalese counterparts.
“I know there have been other U.S. Marine units that these particular individuals have worked with, so we didn’t want to do the same training that they’ve already received,” explained Andrews of Lexington, Ohio. “The approach we took was initially doing a lot of patrolling to see what we could learn from them as well as provide some recommendations to help them improve their tactics and techniques.”
The U.S. Marines then moved into more complex scenarios that included military operations in urban terrain, or MOUT. Building by building, the international forces focused on room clearing and search and seizure procedures.
Lieutenant Lucien Malack, the company commander for the Senegalese Companie de Fusilier Marine Commandos, said his Marines definitely took a lot from the engagement.
“We were very happy with the training that went on,” explained Malack. “It was very beneficial to our troops. I’ve been working with the U.S. Marines for years and I really enjoy working with them every time.”
For every positive that came from the training was adversity waiting to show its grisly face. The international forces faced harsh weather conditions throughout each day.
Whether it was heavy rain, scorching heat or humidity, it seemed to make the language barrier the least of their worries. Still, the U.S. Marines overcame the elements and made it work.
“Just yesterday we finished up the training, and it was raining pretty nasty out here, and instead of taking off, the Senegalese stuck around just to chat,” explained Andrews. “The Marines got real close with the Senegalese…and you could tell that there was a bond being built.”
Building strong relationships with their African counterparts was a goal Andrews said he felt they were able to accomplish. The engagement, however, did not end there.
The partner forces followed up two days of continuous MOUT exercises and patrolling with some live-fire. Every exercise focused on weapons handling basics and accurate firing techniques.
The Senegalese Companie de Fusilier Marine Commandos grew even more familiar with their M16A2 assault rifles, and alternated firing the squad automatic weapons and the M240B automatic firearm.
“I really enjoyed firing the automatic weapons, and I know my Marines did as well,” said Malack. “It is not something we get to do every day, so doing it today allowed us to grow more familiar different weapons systems as well as our own.”
One lesson shared between the Senegalese Companie de Fusilier Marine Commandos and the U.S. Marines came toward the end of the entire engagement; every weapon doesn’t necessarily come with a trigger or sharp edge. Sometimes the most important weapon, according to the Marines of APS 13, is you.
The Marines spent the last day going over basic Marine Corps Martial Arts moves and techniques with their Senegalese partners, focusing on the program’s motto: One Mind, Any Weapon. They went over basic angles of movement, different arm and leg combinations and bayonet techniques.
The engagement ended with countless smiles and friendly farewells after each Senegalese Companie de Fusilier Marine Commando was presented with a certificate of completion for the evolution that everyone successfully accomplished.