FORT RILEY, Kan. — Students and faculty with Kansas State University’s College of Arts and Sciences and its African Studies department have been working with soldiers from the 2nd “Dagger” Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, as they continuously send members of the brigade to Africa as part of their regional alignment with the region.
As the Army’s first regionally-aligned force with U.S. Africa Command, the Dagger Brigade is setting and creating precedents for the types of missions that other units might follow in the future as they take up 2nd ABCT’s mantle. In utilizing the expertise and experience of the Kansas State students and professors during "Dagger University," the weeklong preparatory course for soldiers deploying to Africa, the brigade is ensuring that those soldiers get a unique, personal and face-to-face perspective on the continent and its many complexities.
“[Kansas State University] has been supporting Dagger University since its first run in March, and this is really what I would call a mutually beneficial project,” said Daryl Youngman, an associate professor at KSU. “We know that the soldiers benefit by getting first-hand experience from graduate students and faculty members that have direct relationships with Africa and are given a richness of information that might not necessarily be in the curriculum book.”
To date, soldiers with the Dagger Brigade have worked across Africa in nations such as Malawi, Burundi, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone, Djibouti and South Africa. Missions range from small team-size military-to-military training exercises in fields such as first aid and basic marksmanship to theater security cooperation missions and larger battalion-size joint exercises. Whatever the mission, the expertise of KSU delegations to Dagger University has been valuable, said the brigade commander.
“We talked about the cultural piece of that and that’s a place again where Kansas State University really helps us out immensely,” Col. Jeffery Broadwater said. “School is back in session in Manhattan, and graduate and undergraduate students from various countries in Africa continue to come over and help us understand the culture and other things that they can to get us ready for these missions. That is just a huge resource that Kansas State University has been able to provide as we do this.”
University leadership echoed Broadwater’s sentiments that the school’s resources should be used as an advantage whenever possible.
“What we have over at K-State is an asset, like every other asset that you have,” said Dr. Peter Dorhout, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Kansas State University. “When you need a tool, when you need some information, when you are heading out into a new part of the world — we very likely have individuals who have lived there, worked there, studied that region, and can provide some insights that make folks successful in the kinds of missions that they're engaged in.”
During the most recent iteration of Dagger University, Dorhout and other senior faculty from KSU were in attendance along with several students to speak with soldiers preparing to deploy on various missions to Africa, and the groups sat down together at Demon’s Den dining facility for an informal lunch where they exchanged knowledge and experiences.
Something soldiers will need to keep in mind is that they might not be seen as merely a sergeant, a lieutenant, or a captain, said one of the visitors from Kansas State University.
“They will be seen in many ways as the personal representative of the United States writ large and that needs to guide the way they interact with institutions and people,” said Andrew Orr, an assistant professor of military history and African history, who has traveled across Africa and worked alongside governments to develop institutions in Mali and the Central African Republic. “[Soldiers will think that] these people are treating me as if I am the Secretary of Defense, but I need to remember who I am and why I've been sent here and try and focus on doing my job.”
Dorhout said the experience has so far been highly successful, and hopes to work further with the Dagger Brigade and other units on Fort Riley to help solve some of the world’s major problems.
“I appreciate the opportunity, and the interest that the fort has in utilizing us as an asset, particularly as the brigade has so many things going on, you all, like the College of Arts and Sciences, have a breadth of activities,” he said. “I think that we can work together and learn from each other so that we can grow together in addressing global challenges.”