More than 30 Soldiers from the 2/16th Infantry Battalion and several joint service members from Camp Lemonnier attended a French desert survival combat course Sept. 22 to Oct. 2 in the Grand Bara desert.
The service members were taught tactical field skills to fight and survive by Marines of the 5th French Marine Regiment.
“The relationships we’re building with the French are absolutely phenomenal,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Raymond Hall, CJTF-HOA range operations officer, who was near the beach as the last of his teammates plunged into a salt water obstacle course. “You come in the first few days … French over here, Americans over here. It was kind of difficult to integrate, but once we got through that and got out here, operating and intermingling, we’ve become great friends across the board.”
The course included tactical movements, combat casualty care, small arms engagements and obstacle courses. The 10-day course ended with a 36-hour field training exercise that included medical and indirect fire support from the 2/16th.
On Sept. 25th, Lt. Col. James Batchelor, 2/16th IN BN commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Williams, 2/16th IN BN senior enlisted leader, joined their Soldiers in zodiac boats, with rifles slung, to complete a water obstacle course.
“I look at this as a compressed Ranger school,” Batchelor said after completing the water obstacle course. “There is an opportunity for guys to come out and do a lot of confidence building exercises.”
In addition to personal confidence, Batchelor said his Soldiers were building relationships with international teammates.
“I expect when they walk away from this they’re going to walk away really having gained a lot of confidence in themselves and they had the opportunity to work closely with NATO allies,” he said. “I’m really proud of what they’re doing. They’re hanging tough.”
For those who want to go to the course themselves, Hall offered his advice.
“The mental toughness in this course is paramount,” he said. “Humping over these mountains and some of these missions that are seven, eight hours in really rocky terrain -- it’s just a straight-up gut check.”
Hall said the course was a good opportunity to learn how the French conduct tactical operations and the exchange helped cement friendships.
During the graduation ceremony Oct. 2, those who successfully completed the course received a desert commando badge from their French instructors.