By Air Force Staff Sergeant Burt Traynor, broadcaster with the Regional News Bureau, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Africa Partnership Station 2011 offered more than just a platform to highlight great stories; it provided me the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time. Upon arrival I was on sensory overload, from the crowded markets of the capital Dakar to the bumpy five hour ride through the Senegal countryside. Our final destination was a camp in the coastal town of Toubakouta, where U.S. Marines with the Security Cooperation Task Force were set up alongside their Senegalese counterparts. A full week of collaborative maritime safety and security activities behind them, they now moved toward a final field exercise.
My first story and interaction with the U.S Marines and the Senegalese troops came during a combat life saving skills demonstration. I imagine to the Senegalese squad, mainly trainees still in their basic training phase, it was a big deal to work with the U.S Marines. Tools from the life saving kits held their curiosity as they implemented them throughout the course; tools these Senegalese troops would probably not have out on the battlefield. The U.S medics and Senegalese troops collaborated on what improvised supplies may be available to apply essential life saving skills. Most of the U.S Marines present have experience applying these skills on the battlefield and passed that firsthand knowledge on to the Senegalese troops.
The next few days held a cooperative training between the U.S Marines, the Senegalese, and also a group of Nigerian Naval Commandos participating in the exercise. The Nigerians and Senegalese passed small boat tactics and survival skills in the African environment onto the Marines. Perhaps the most interesting and surreal survival lesson I heard came from a Senegalese Sergeant on how to handle an encounter with an anaconda in the water. The technique begins by allowing the anaconda to start swallowing one of your legs…NO THANK YOU!
The training culminated in a field exercise implementing the water and land tactics learned. Despite a language barrier and various experience levels, the collaboration of the past couple of weeks came together. My last day, I captured a shot of the Marines, Nigerians, and Senegalese coming together to shout a hoorah chant, symbolizing the growing bond between a community of warriors. I listened to the Senegalese troops sing as they marched back onto base, sounding proud of what they accomplished and the partnerships forged. My first trip to Africa will not soon be forgotten.
LINKS TO NEWS STORIES: