CAMP TONDIBIAH, Niger - United States Ambassador to Niger Gail Denise Mathieu paid a visit here Tuesday to see a medical team of Air Force Reservist in action at the clinic treating local residents.
The ambassador was joined on the visit by a host of Nigerien officials including their Minister of Defense Hassane Souley. The 12-person medical team is in Niger, alongside the U.S. Marine Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Mobile Training Team, performing a humanitarian mission.
Ambassador Mathieu toured the entire medical compound, paying a visit to each of the examining rooms before making a speech to a crowd of more than 30 visitors, as well as a group of 11 local members of the press.
In her speech she said, "We are here because we have the opportunity to visit with a U.S. military unit who is working side by side with the Niger military to provide medical assistance for the villages of the greater Tondibiah area. I am very glad to be able to present to you such an example of U.S. - Nigerien cooperation and friendship."
Ambassador Mathieu stressed the value of the reservists two-week mission will have a long term impact. "We think it will have a longer impact in demonstrating the United States commitment to Niger in areas that extend beyond the traditional forms of aid and military assistance," she said. "In this case, the U.S. military is here in its peacetime capacity to provide humanitarian assistance. Programs like the Tondibiah military clinic show that the United States and Nigerien militaries are strong partners who are working for the welfare of the people of Niger."
For the medical team, it let them know that their work was being noticed from outside the village limits.
"The ambassador's visit highlights the importance that the U.S. government and State Department place on humanitarian assistance by our government as a way of creating links with this country and friendship with its people," said Col. Roger Santala, an individual mobilization augmentee physician with the 10th Medical Group, U.S.Air Force Academy, Colo.
"The ambassador emphasized that military humanitarian assistance is one of her best tools in building local support among the people for the U.S."
While the reservists are performing a humanitarian mission, the Marines are simultaneously training the Nigerien military in basic infantry tactics.
"The United States military is a dynamic institution that conducts traditional military training and assistance programs for the Nigerien Army," Ambassador Mathieu said, "but they are also very much engaged here in promoting the values of democracy and stronger military-civilian cooperation.
For Colonel Santala, the presence of the ambassador and the Nigerien dignitaries demonstrated the significance of the mission.
"It's very graphic how important this brief humanitarian visit is in our nation's effort, that ultimately is a key element in the war against terrorism," Colonel Santala said.