U.S. Marines and Sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 began training Senegalese Companie de Fusilier Marine Commandos in Dakar, Senegal, April 6, 2013.
The training was focused on light infantry tactics and maritime security that helped build proficiency in handling regional stability issues such as drug traffickers or potential hostile activity.
“We’re here because the U.S., and the Marines in particular, have a longstanding relationship with Senegal and the COFUMACO,” said 1st Lt. Kyle Finnerty, Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13 assistant team leader from New York City.
“They have identified areas where they can improve their military capabilities and they have asked us to come in and help train them to improve in those areas and build their capacity to provide security for their country,” he said.
Senegal has approximately 330 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline and large networks of rivers along the southern coastline. However, the Senegalese landscape consists mainly of the rolling sandy plains of the Western Sahel.
“The COFUMACO are the Senegalese equivalent of the U.S. Marines,” Finnerty added. “They are naval infantry, so they operate in desert and water-based environments.”
The Marines and Sailors use interpreters to communicate while in the classroom with the COFUMACO. Classroom time only accounts for about 10 percent of instruction, the rest of the training is hands-on in the field or on the water to promote muscle memory and an understanding that can only come from experience, Finnerty said.
“We started with basic weapons handling and maintenance and then live-fire,” he said. “We start from the stand-still and move up to more advanced skills, such as shooting on the move. We saw them make great progress throughout the week. They are a motivated group of individuals and they work hard every day and they are exceeding our expectations.”
Like the U.S. Marines, the COFUMACO are amphibious, so the training did not stop with land based activity.
Daily drills of waterway patrolling, land insertions and extractions, live-fire target practice, and scout-swimmer techniques are the challenges the COFUMACO face daily and come out on top, said Quarter Master 2nd Class Eric Waters, Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13 riverine instructor from Pueblo, Calif.
“When we get out [on the water] we teach them how to overcome the heat and environment,” Waters said. “Most of the time we get wet out there but the COFUMACO are very willing to learn. They overcome it and they ask a lot of questions. Once they hear it, they grasp it and they do it.”
The long term goal of the training is to prepare the training participants to become the next generation of instructors for the COFUMACO.
“Our goal here is to train the trainer,” Waters said. “The COFUMACO are willing to learn new techniques and practice and progress in the skills that we are teaching them to the point where they can effectively train future COFUMACO.”
At the end of every training day, the participants review their performance and prepare to do it better the next day.
“If you could spend a half hour with them in training you’d think everyone was old friends,” Finnerty said. “All the shared pain in training and working out during the long hard days, everyone becomes close pretty quickly. Everyone is working hard but there are a lot of laughs and good times to be had as well.”
Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa strengthens U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command’s ability to assist partner nations. The approximately 150 U.S. Marines and Sailors conduct security force assistance, military-to-military engagements and are trained to provide support to crisis response.