ARTA PLAGE, Djibouoti - Approximately 46 U.S. Army Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, along with French Marines completed the French Marine Desert Survival Course on Oct. 12, 2016.
The soldiers and French Marines came together during the French-led course to learn desert survival skills and operational techniques in Arta’s austere environment, so as to better prepare for future real world situations.
During the survival course, the U.S. and French participants completed several tasks including desert operations, combat lifesaving skills, weapons training, survival cooking, how to decontaminate water, and water and mountain obstacle courses.
“The main focus is combined arms tactical training, which is 70 percent of the course,” said French Capt. Charles Lenoir, French Desert Survival Course head instructor. “Then, 15-20 percent is obstacle course training— or what we call “commando”-type training. The other 10 percent is desert survival course, which goes over how to survive, how to prepare meals, and how to make a fire and water in desert conditions.”
When the U.S. soldiers arrived, they were embedded with French infantry and cavalry units, and began their first four days of training in desert operations. There they set up a forward operating base, defensive positions, and conducted patrols. During their time in the mountain phase, they also reacted to simulated enemy contact and tested their reaction to ambush situations, said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jack Najjar, French Desert Survival Course instructor.
Upon completion of the desert mountain phase, the teams made their way to Arta Plage where they completed desert survival training, combat lifesaving skills, and the water and mountain obstacle courses.
“The combat and obstacle phase gets people to do teamwork, and [it puts] them through an effort,” said Lenoir. “And with the U.S., it’s a good experience to work with our allied forces so we do it as much as we can.”
The U.S. soldiers learned to speak some of the French language in addition to learning the tactical techniques of the French Marines.
“I started with pointing and waving. And now, with the same obstacle every day, when (the instruction is given) in French, I know exactly what he is talking about,” said Najjar. “The French have been outstanding people, even with the language barrier. At the end of the day you will see (U.S. and French) sitting together, trading Meals, Ready-to-Eat, and somehow communicating.”
Although the course’s training focused primarily on U.S. soldiers learning French tactics, Najjar said the French instructors also enjoyed learning some of the Americans’ tactics, as well.
“It’s great we’re doing (the course), because they are learning our way of doing things, and we are learning their way of doing things," said Najjar, "and that improves the whole relationship between the U.S. and French Marines right here in HOA.”