NIGERIEN AIR BASE 201, AGADEZ, Niger --
Thirty-two Niger Armed Forces (French language: Forces Armées Nigeriennes) soldiers graduated from a tactical field training course facilitated by 409th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron (ESFS) air advisors at Nigerien Air Base 201, Niger, March 10, 2022.
During the eight-week course, the 409th ESFS air advisors provided an opportunity for FAN soldiers to learn skills necessary to operate in a combat environment. Niger is critical to frontline counter-violent extremist operations. Training such as this strengthens partnerships and ensures African partner nations are capable of countering these threats.
“This course is based on the standard operating procedures that we use in the U.S. Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Parker, 409th ESFS air advisor. “It helps build our partners' defense capabilities when fighting against [violent extremist organizations].”
As of 2020, the Sahel saw a 44 percent increase in violent events in the region and more than 1.7 million refugees were forced to flee as a result of terrorist attacks in the tri-border region of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali. FAN soldiers often deploy directly from training and to the Lake Chad Basin and tri-border region.
“This training enhances their experience, it develops the technical, tactical and operational skills of our military defense for Air Base 201,” said Capt. Oumarou Badage, FAN Air Base 201 commander. “The effectiveness during daily joint missions [Nigerien/U.S. Forces] is remarkable. Working together, the close relationship of the two forces is felt in a mutual trust leading to the same reflexes in action.”
Niger, by itself, is nearly two times the size of Texas while the Sahel reaches over three million square kilometers; nearly a third of the continental United States. With that much terrain to cover, the U.S. and their allies rely heavily on Nigerien forces to lead counter-violent extremism operations.
“Africa is an emerging front in the strategic power competition as well as an epicenter for violent extremism,” said Col. Daniel Kobs, 409th Air Expeditionary Group, commander. “We’re very aware of the increasing terrorist activity which threatens to spill over into neighboring European countries as well as the United States. In order to compete and win, we need the help of our Nigerien partners to disrupt and degrade terrorism at its source.”
To meet that challenge, the FAN soldiers learned various military tactics such as mounted and dismounted patrols, close quarter combat, field medical care, explosive ordnance identification as well as response to fire and small arms engagement tactics.
“This is not only a security forces air advisor course, we reached out to different units like fire and [explosive ordnance disposal members] to get their expertise and help with the course,” said Parker. “They are the experts, I can read a [tactical training plan] but I’m not proficient in that area and we want the FAN to get the best training they can possibly receive to better their defense capabilities for their deployment and make them more of a fit-to-fight team.”
At the end of the eight-week course, the FAN soldiers participated in a two-day final field exercise, allowing them to cumulatively demonstrate the skills they had learned throughout the course.
“It was an honor to train our partner forces,” said Parker. “I’ve always enjoyed training but to teach someone something new and watch them progressively get better is very humbling. Seeing the FAN from the beginning of the course to the end, has been awesome! They improved their skills every week.”
Parker attributes the course’s success to the Niger soldiers’ willingness and dedication to learn.
“Before we started the course, the [FAN] immediately started asking questions,” said Parker. “They wanted to know what we were going to teach and what they were going to do. They were very receptive, very excited and eager to learn.”
Developing African partner capability while countering violent extremism helps build regional self-reliance and impedes detrimental influences on the continent. The U.S. alone cannot combat violent extremism in Africa. Training alongside African partners forges strategic relationships, and builds the operational confidence needed to cohesively join forces anytime, anywhere.
“No matter where you go in the world, you can come together as a team and work, language barrier or not,” said Parker. “We all have the same ultimate goal and that is to go home to our families.”