U.S. Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa (SP-MAGTF AF) have been training Burundi National Defense Force (BNDF) soldiers in preparation for deployments to Somalia.
The deployments are in support of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), a regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Burundi is the second largest Troop Contributing Country (TCC), with six battalions deployed to Somalia at any given time.
Burundi also airlifted a seventh battalion into the Central African Republic in December 2013, as part of the peace-keeping mission for the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA.)
“The idea is that we conduct this training to prepare them for AMISOM missions or to deploy to the Central African Republic,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Justin Dentel, SP-MAGTF AF Burundi team leader.
The 10-week course is designed to cover a broad spectrum of logistics training, to include troop movements, breaching and clearing buildings, engineering, countering improvised explosive devices, convoy operations, communication skills and self-aid buddy care.
Dentel said many of the BNDF soldiers have been deployed to Somalia before so this is an opportunity for them to refine and improve their skills.
A lot of the tactics being taught are similar to the ones used in Iraq and Afghanistan, because it’s not a conventional war platform, but rather guerilla warfare in urban environments, he explained.
The BNDF soldiers have been eager and appreciative of the training provided by the Marines. “They want to learn, they’re excited to meet us and be with us,” Dentel said.
“I was motivated about this training because I knew I was going to get something different in comparison to what I’ve gotten before,” the BNDF company commander said.
The company commander, who has deployed to Somalia before, believes this training will help tremendously when he deploys again.
“First time when we were in Somalia there were many errors that we were doing. Now, I’m pretty sure I’m going to fix them accordingly,” the BNDF company commander said. “We got many techniques that we’re going to apply, like when we sweep a road that’s expected to have mines or IEDs.”
He has been very pleased with the cooperation between the U.S. and Burundi and hopes the training continues. He said the U.S. has been a great asset in supporting Burundi’s missions for AMISOM and MISCA.