Marines complete training in Chad, move to Niger

CHAD(July 27, 2004) -- The first phase of the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI) concluded with a graduation ceremony July 27th at the Chadian Army Camp 27. The Chadian Army anti-terrorist battalion graduated from an 8-week training syllabus conducted by the PSI Mobile Training Team (MTT) consisting of U.S. Marines.

"I'm very pleased with this training. For two months, everybody made great efforts to train, and we've completed it successfully," said Chadian Army Maj. Abakar Mahamad Abdallah, commanding officer of the anti-terrorist battalion. "I appreciate the efforts of the Marines and soldiers. Now, we are ready for combat."

The U.S. Ambassador of Chad, Marc M. Wall, and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Jack A. Davis attended the event to honor the newly trained soldiers.

The team of 25 trainers, comprised of Marines and Sailors from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, Atlantic, and the Second Marine Expeditionary Force, instructed the Chadian force through a rigorous eight-week training evolution consisting of basic individual infantry skills up to company-level tactics. The U.S State Department mission to increase the capabilities of Africa's Sahel region, and stem the flow of illicit arms, goods, and terrorists in the area, began with the training of units in the countries of Mali and Mauitania by Special Operations Command, Europe personnel. The training of the unit in Chad was the first to be conducted by the U.S. Marine Corps.

The initial six weeks of training, beginning with a gear issue of 12 light trucks, assorted communications gear, clothing, and equipment for three platoons of Chadian soldiers, took place at the Chadian Army Instruction Training Center Koundoul. Following the equipment issue, the soldiers were trained in various infantry skills and tactics such as rifle marksmanship with the AK-47 assault riffle, land navigation, field medicine, and squad patrols, keeping safety as a main concern.

During the final two weeks of training, the PSI MTT and the Chadian Anti-terrorist Battalion moved the training to the Chadian Instruction Training Center Loumia, where the platoons underwent more training that incorporated what they had already learned the prior weeks. The Marine cadre introduced the platoons to more extensive techniques such as, basic fire maneuvers, squad rushes, close quarters combat, and vehicle-mounted operations.

While the instructors' primary mission was to train the Chadian soldiers, the team simultaneously provided force protection for a medical team from the United States Air Force Reserve Command. The 13 service members, representing 9 separate Air Force commands, provided examinations in dentistry, optometry and general medicine to the local villagers as the Marines kept the anxious crowds organized and peaceful. The medical volunteers stayed in Loumia with the Marines from July 1-15. After the medical team departed, the PSI MTT corpsmen continued providing medical support to the soldiers in between the training schedule.

"We're all U.S. military with a common goal of improving the nation of Chad," said Maj. Paul A. Baker, officer in charge, PSI MTT.

At the end of the two weeks in Loumia each of the platoons combined the training they had received and put it to use in a final exercise. Each platoon conducted a full mission from vehicle-mounted insertion to a fire-supported final assault on their objective with only supervision from their Marine team leaders.

"The soldiers made a tremendous improvement from the first day we started training. They've taken what we've taught them and have done their best with it, but they need to consistently practice what they've been trained," said Staff Sgt. Bobby Rivera, instructor/trainer, PSI MTT.

Now that the training of the Chadian battalion is complete, the detachment of Marines will focus their attention on the country of Niger and prepares to conduct two more months of training there. Services members from The Air Force Reserve Command will also accompany the Marines for the first two weeks of the Marines two-month training period to provide humanitarian medical service.

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