U.S. Special Operations Forces service members and Cameroonian soldiers held joint exercise Silent Warrior Jan. 19 through Feb.15th in Cameroon.
The purpose of the exercise was to enhance partner development with soldiers of the 3rd Rapid Intervention Batallion or Bataillon d’Intervention Rapide (BIR) and introduce additional tactics, techniques and procures into the Cameroonian’s current operational capability, while familiarizing U.S. Special Operations soldiers with the operational environment in this part of Africa.
During the opening ceremony, the Cameroonian officials were adamant that building bonds and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Cameroonian soldiers were important to their approach to providing security for the civilians of Cameroon.
“We would like to express our profound gratitude to the high command that chose the 3rd Battalion for this exercise, and believe that by the end of this operation we will continue to foster bilateral relations between the U.S. Army and the Cameroonian Army,” said Major Gen. Mahamadou Saly, 2nd Joint Military Region commander.
American officials on hand described two objectives U.S. troops were hoping to accomplish from the exercise.
“The first is for the United States Soldiers to learn from our Cameroonian counterparts. The second aim is to teach our Cameroonian counterparts what we have learned over our years of combat experience so we can all improve,” said Lt. Col. Herbert Skinner, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa exercise coordinator. “The Rapid Intervention Battalion is built to improve internal security against banditry; against piracy out in the bay…we are here to help them improve our collective capabilities.”
The exercise was conducted in two phases. The first phase took place in Bamenda, located in the northwest province, in which USSOF provided technical training on tactical skills; such as close quarters battle, urban movement, land navigation, combat marksmanship, tactical combat casualty care, entry control point operations and protection of convoys.
The culminating event pitted soldiers against one another in a friendly competition, using the skills they had developed during the preceding two weeks of training.
The second phase of the exercise took place in Bouba Ndjida, in northeast Cameroon. This phase consisted of the U.S. Soldiers advising soldiers from the BIR anti-terrorist unit.
The groups split into three teams, patrolling the Bouba Ndjida National Park in 72-hour increments to deter potential poachers.
Countering poaching is a challenge in Cameroon, where hundreds of elephants were killed in 2012 for their ivory.
The U.S. SOF commander noted that shared hardship strengthens a unit, and that the austere conditions of the Bouba Ndjida National Park positioned U.S. SOF and BIR soldiers together against the rigors of the environment.
Upon completion of the training, both the U.S. and Cameroonian soldiers had a different outlook on their counterparts.
“The BIR Soldiers lived up to their reputations as the premiere forces of Cameroon,” the U.S. commander said. “The soldiers of the BIR demonstrated a level of competence and dedication to soldiership.”
Silent Warrior was the first major SOCAFRICA exercise of 2013, but the training relationship between U.S. SOF and Cameroonian Armed Forces stretches back years.
“This attitude is certainly proof of the American will to promote a worldwide peaceful environment, to communication and international exchange,” General Saly said.
Although the exercise focused mainly on U.S. SOF and BIR elements, officials on both sides felt it important to integrate other Cameroonian security services into the activities.
“We’ve [U.S.] expanded our training to include other security forces, so that more forces are available to contribute to stability in this area,” said Lt. Col. Skinner.
The exercise concluded with a ceremony, where elite warriors from both sides were able to demonstrate their appreciation for each other and admire what had been accomplished in a few short weeks.
“I would like to thank your government, your army and especially those who came out here to carry out this training, which I believe has been very beneficial to us. We are very happy with this experience and we hope, and we pray that it should continue,” said Col. Ayukegba, the 3rd BIR commander. “We will make good use of it, and we hope that it will strengthen with time.”
“We accomplished our mission by working closely with BIR forces to build a strong relationship based on mutual respect,” said the U.S. SOF detachment commander. “We are now postured to build upon this relationship and improve combined capabilities during future engagements.”