News: Next SP-MAGTF Africa rotation steps it up in the fast lane
Courtesy story by Lance Cpl. Ryan Joyner, SP-MAGTF Africa 13.3
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – The sound of gunfire often echoed through the cool morning air from April 24 to May 13 near Crawfordsville, Ark., as Marines and sailors trained for the next rotation of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa.
SP-MAGTF Africa “13.3,” as it’s called internally to differentiate between iterations of the task force, is comprised of approximately 150 Marines and sailors, drawn together from more than 30 different reserve units, who temporarily call Camp Lejeune home.
They are slated to deploy to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy to conduct theater security cooperation, military-to-military engagements, and provide support to limited crisis response if called upon.
SP-MAGTF Africa is an enduring rotation of Marines and sailors whose mission is to strengthen U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command’s ability to assist partner nations in addressing regional security challenges.
It is common for each rotation to attend the training in Arkansas to increase specialized capabilities they will be able to use while deployed. At the latest evolution, the Marines learned various foreign weapon systems, tactical driving skills and “train the trainer” courses.
“The purpose of (this training) is twofold: one is to train our Marines on weapon systems they may encounter with foreign national militaries, and second is to learn driving skills and other techniques to mitigate risks encountered when operating in foreign countries,” said Lt. Col. Thomas F. Marble, commanding officer of SP-MAGTF Africa 13.3.
During the event, the Marines fired and maintained a variety of foreign weapons ranging from the soviet-style AK family and PKM to the FAL, a Belgian-designed weapon used by dozens of foreign militaries.
“Training with the foreign weapons was great. It was hands on, we learned how to properly load, fire, maintain and troubleshoot a wide variety of weapons that we might encounter in the various countries that we are assisting,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Gormley, SP-MAGTF Africa 13.3 assistant security manager.
But weapons training is only a small part of what SP-MAGTF Africa rotations are geared for.
“We also went through ‘train the trainer’ courses where we learned how to present knowledge to train others,” said Gormley, a Philadelphia native. “Toward the end of the training cycle, we were running our own firing range, which is a large part of what we will be doing (while deployed).”
The Marines went through an “on and off-road techniques” course that introduced left foot braking, recovery techniques, road building, using momentum, and a wide array of recovery equipment.
Marines can pass on those driving skills to partner nations and militaries, which is significant because accidents are one of the greatest sources of casualties to military members, added Marble, a Stafford, Va. native.
The on-road course was conducted on a 2.6 mile high-performance track designed for live-fire and scenario-based training. Numerous obstacles and choke points were placed throughout the track to ensure realistic training, including sprinklers for slippery turns.
This 16-day course provided a wide base of knowledge and experience for the Marines to share and use during their upcoming deployment, and the Marines will share their knowledge with the inviting partner countries of Africa, said Marble.
Previous SP-MAGTF Africa rotations have completed missions in Uganda, Cameroon, Burundi, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Seychelles.
SP-MAGTF Africa 13.3 is scheduled to continue providing assistance to partner African nations in a variety of topics, including: logistics, counter terrorism, communications, non-lethal weapons training, maritime security force assistance, military planning, small-unit leadership, and vehicle maintenance.
They are scheduled to deploy this summer.