1/10 Special Forces Group Supports Pan Sahel Initiative
TIMBUKTU, Mali -- Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Stuttgart, Germany are currently training African soldiers along the outer reaches of the Sahara Desert in support of the continuing global war on terrorism.
Special Forces training teams from Special Operations Command Europe are in Bamako, Gao and Timbuktu, Mali; and Atar, Mauritania in Northwestern Africa to provide foreign internal defense training for the Pan Sahel Initiative, a U.S. Department of State Security Assistance Program.
"We're training basic platoon level tasks to one company of the 33rd Parachute Infantry Regiment in Bamako in order to enhance their capabilities to police their border regions in the north," said the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Operational Detachment commander in Bamako. "They're really a sharp unit and they're picking it up quickly."
Key aspects of the training include basic marksmanship, planning, communications, land navigation, patrolling and medical care. This foreign internal defense training will help the countries involved better protect their own borders and regions.
The 1-10 Battalian commander, Lt. Col. Robert Warburg, met with the 33rd Parachute Infantry Regiment commander in Bamako during a recent site visit and discussed the challenges and highlights of the training.
"The training here is a two-way street," said Warburg. "While we're here to train the Malian soldiers, we're also receiving tremendous training from them."
The African soldiers are not the only ones to benefit from PSI. The SOCEUR forces, known throughout the U.S European Command for their abilities to excel in the most austere locations with the command's area of responsibility, are getting the opportunity to learn new cultures, terrain and languages by working with these African forces. Additionally, they are conducting SOF specific training requirements in a new envioronment that they don't normally encounter in central Europe.
"We're fighting against terrorists, so this training is very important for us," said Malian Army Lt. Col. Unisa Barizamega, commander of the 5th Military Region, based in Timbuktu. The region is mostly desert and it comprises 40 percent of the country. "This training is helping us improve our combat skills and is teaching us new ones," he said.
"One of the highlights of our training was our joint airborne operation with the Mauritanian 1st Battalion Commando Parachutists using their aircraft and their airspace," said the 1-10 SFGCA Operational Detachment commander at Atar, Mauritania. "The soldiers are very motivated and they have a good attitude."
"This is a good program and we're glad to be a part of it," said the commander of 1-10's Area Operating Base located at Gao, which serves as the headquarters for the PSI mission. Additionally at Gao, there are two 1-10 Special Forces teams conducting training with local Malian forces.
"The guys in the unit are working hard and doing a great job," said the AOB commander.
According to State Department officials, this region of Africa has become important in the global security arena. Vast expanses of unpopulated areas, instability, and porous borders make Africa an inviting playground for terrorists.
"By cooperating with Mali to better protect its borders and territory, we can help keep it from being used by terrorists. This makes Mali a very important partner in the war on terrorism," said Madame Vicki Huddleston, U.S. Ambassador to Mali.
The Pan Sahel Initiative is a U.S. Department of State Security Assistance Program focusing on four countries in the Sarah region of Africa. The initiative supports U.S. national security interests in the war on terrorism by enhancing regional peace and security. It directly assists Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania in protecting their borders and exploiting opportunities to detect and deter terrorists by providing basic training and equipment.