News: African Officers Visit San Diego,Twentynine Palms
Story by Lt.j.g. Amy Forsythe
SAN DIEGO - U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton’s Edson Range hosted a group of nine senior military officers from various African nations as part of an ongoing military-to-military (M2M) familiarization program sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Aug. 11, 2014.
Participants traveled from various parts of Africa to military bases in San Diego for a weeklong field learning and cultural exchange program from Aug. 11-16, 2014. In it’s fourth year, this outreach effort is designed to extend the participants’ knowledge of the U.S. military beyond the classroom for a hands-on exchange with Marines in a training environment. This M2M program is sponsored by AFRICOM’s Directorate of Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems (C4S) or J-6, and led by Denis Gizinski who hopes these learning opportunities will create a lasting impact for the delegates.
“The M2M program enhances the Commander’s ability to establish enduring relationships that improve long-term international security while strengthening partnerships across all levels of the military,” said Gizinski, J6 Deputy Director.
The African delegates, representing Kenya, Tunisia, Madagascar, Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Botswana, Gabon and Comoros, were selected because of their specialty training in the tactical communications field and experience as senior staff officers. AFRICOM chose to partner with the U.S. Marines at the Recruit Depot, Camp Pendleton and the Marine-Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms, Calif., to provide a real-life and interactive look at basic training, intermediate training and follow-on specialty training for tactical communicators.
During the 6-day visit to San Diego and San Bernardino Counties, the group observed Marine Boot Camp, basic infantry training and field communications training. They also visited the Space and Naval Warfare Command (SPAWAR) to learn more about maritime domain awareness, border surveillance and communications capabilities.
Some delegates have attended U.S. military courses or participated in previous training multinational exercises, but this hands-on experience is personalized and tailored to their specific occupational specialties. “It’s been great so far to see how the Marines train and to see how we are different, but in many ways the same,” said Col. Ben Dhifallah, staff officer from Tunisia.
The Marines hosting the delegation enjoyed showcasing their training because it’s important to show that being in the U.S. military is a lifestyle and not just something that can be taught in one or two courses. Commanding Officer of Marine Combat Training Battalion West, Lt. Col. Phil Ash, hosted the delegates at a remote live fire range in the center of the sprawling southern California base. “You don’t need fancy or expensive training ranges…sometimes all we use are a few rocks and sticks to simulate room clearing procedures,” he said. “All you need is a few motivated NCOs and you can have a productive training environment,” he added.
Participating in an exchange program like this is an opportunity for both Americans and Africans to learn from each other to improve interoperability. These senior staff communications officers will be able to better understand how the U.S. trains, equips and deploys its forces while providing a better contextual understanding of how they can adapt and enhance their own resources and capabilities.
“The Marines have shown us how you can use the very basics when developing training,” said Chris Sampson, event coordinator. “The Marines did a great job of showing that training doesn’t have to be technologically advanced and you can use whatever you have available. That’s what we wanted to get across during this visit,” said Sampson.
The week will be capped off with unique events with a tour of the USS Midway Museum and a static display of U.S. Navy aircraft at North Island Naval Air Station. The final day offered an opportunity to enjoy local culture with a lunch hosted by the American Legion and a tour of the historic and rustic town of Julian, Calif.
Gizinski said the program has improved over the years since AFRICOM first hosted African military officers in San Diego, with more visits to different locations to provide a richer experience for everyone.