CAMP TONDIBIAH, Niger -- The Marines and Sailors of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorist Initiative (TSCTI), a state department program that seeks to train and equip selected military units from countries in the Sahel region of Africa, commenced with the second part of their mission to train soldiers of the Nigerien Army.
The team of 25, comprised of service members from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, Atlantic, and the Second Marine Expeditionary Force initially known as the Pan Sahel Initiative Mobile Training Team (PSI MTT), recently completed eight weeks of similar training with the Chadian Army. Now, at the dusk of successfully completing their mission with Chad, according to TSCTI MTT Officer in Charge Maj. Paul A. Baker, the team turns their attention to another eight weeks of training the Nigerien force in basic individual infantry skills up to company-level tactics. The 7.85 million dollar program is intended to increase the capabilities of Africa's Sahel region and stem the flow of illicit arms, goods, and terrorists in the area. The countries Mali and Mauritania were the first to receive training by Special Operations Command, Europe personnel under the Pan Sahel Initiative.
"It is still going to be the same basic period of instruction that we start out with, and if the Nigerien soldiers progress fast, then there will be absolutely more potential to throw other events in," said Baker. "They've already inquired about possibly having a scout sniper package, and this company does have mortar men. So, we'll do more gun drills with the machine gun and mortar."
Simultaneously, 12 service members from 11 different units of the Air Force Reserve Command voluntarily work alongside the Marines, providing medical support in areas of dentistry, optometry and general medicine to the soldiers initially and later to the inhabitants of the surrounding villages from August 9th to 23rd. The Air Force medical team began their efforts with eye examinations for the training soldiers so; the soldiers would be better prepared for marksmanship training with the Marines. The Marines initiate their training with a focus on physical training, proper firing stance, and field medicine. According to third team instructor/trainer Sgt. Laurin C. Hopkins, there are no real training obstacles in front of the Marine team.
"You just have to have an open mind starting out, and see if they have a feel for what we're teaching," said Sgt. Hopkins "The Chadian force we trained was 40 percent officers. Here, there are more enlisted. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what their non-commissioned officer leadership is like."