NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, Italy – After nearly a month in Mauritania, a team of Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 14.1 completed its latest theater security cooperation mission, March 21.
The group was in Mauritania to train and advise their counterparts, the Fusiliers Marins (FUMA), on basic infantry skills, marksmanship, patrolling skills, first aid and combat lifesaving skills, small boat operations and mission planning for leadership.
Started in 2011, SP-MAGTF Africa is a rotational deployment of Marines and sailors for theater security cooperation in various African countries. The task force is currently staffed Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, permanently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“(The training) went off without a hitch. It just went off flawlessly,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Bender, the assistant officer in charge with the theater security cooperation team that was in Mauritania. “I think it’s going to be one of my most memorable moments in my time in the Marine Corps. It was very rewarding. We couldn’t ask for a better group of soldiers to teach.”
Bender says his favorite part of the training was the live-fire range they conducted.
“I liked to see everyone on the final days of training, to see how they improved, to see how far they’ve come and how they’ve used what we’ve taught them,” he said.
At the end of their mission, the two groups joined together on the Mauritanian military base for a closing ceremony. The commander and executive officer in charge of the base and the TSC officer in charge all spoke at the ceremony. The Marines handed out awards to the top four shooters they instructed and gave the class diplomas for graduating their course.
The Marines not only developed a great working relationship with the FUMA, but also a friendship with them.
“We got along swimmingly,” said Bender, of Harrisburg, Penn. “It was great. They were really receptive to what we had to say. They were just soaking up as much information as they could. They were very polite, very hospitable and great hosts.”