Under the heat of the Burkinabé sun, Marines and their students from five nations were welcomed by the sounds of traditional African drums, excited children, and gifts of bright pink flowers presented in simple glass jars. This moment marked the start of the Military Intelligence Non-Commissioned Officer Course – Africa’s (MINOC-A) community relations project, Nov. 30.
Over the previous six weeks, 29 Staff noncommissioned officer students from Tunisia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger had been engulfed in their development as intelligence professionals.
Their extensive intelligence training was provided by a small cadre from U.S. Marine Corps Force Europe and Africa, but by visiting a local orphanage and school, the gears shifted to focusing on their equally important development as staff NCOs. This visit focused on cultivating a balance between involvement in the community and the profession of arms.
The objective of the visit was to build camaraderie between and across the nationalities of students, but also provide a positive influence on the lives of children who may not otherwise have male role models. Students, and Marines alike, naturally gravitated to the children, reviewing their developing academic capabilities at miniature desks, posing for photos with big grins, and cheering at the presentation of whimsical song and dance.
In gratitude for the gracious hospitality of our five to ten-year-old hosts, as a class, the MINOC-A students presented small gifts to show appreciation. Basic school and art supplies, a soccer ball, children’s clothing, and a monetary gift donated from the students were presented to the orphanage administrators for the children.
One of our hosts, an orphan boy no older than five or six and the honorary recipient of the soccer ball from a Tunisian MINOC-A student, coincidently was wearing a t-shirt that stated in bright yellow bubble letters, “Smile Makes U FeeL BeTTer.” If that is the case, I think everyone was feeling pretty good that day.
Editor’s Note: Capt. Justin Moeykens, the MINOC-A officer-in-charge with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, presents a first-person perspective while working with African partners in Burkina Faso.