Airmen in Niger resilient amid extended deployments

  • Published
  • 406th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Amid ongoing discussions between U.S. and Nigerien officials on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger, approximately 900 U.S. military members and civilian employees remain ready at Air Bases 101 and 201 in Niamey and Agadez, respectively, to facilitate the bases’ orderly withdrawal.

The recent meetings between the U.S. and Nigerien government representatives concluded on May 19, 2024. As part of the arrangement reached, both parties have set a deadline to complete the withdrawal no later than Sept. 15, 2024.

According to the terms of the arrangement, the majority of U.S. forces deployed to Niger, many of whom have seen extensions to their anticipated re-deployment dates, will remain in the country to oversee preparations for closing AB101 and 201.

Additionally, the U.S. and Nigerien delegations have established procedures to streamline the entry and exit of U.S. personnel, including overflight and landing clearances for military flights.

U.S. personnel previously faced delays in resupply of certain items, such as mail and personal hygiene products while the Nigerien government reviewed diplomatic clearances; this issue has been addressed. Essential supplies including fuel, water, food, and medicine had been and remain adequately stocked and available for deployed personnel.

U.S. Air Force Col. Scheutzow, commander of the 409th Air Expeditionary Group, praised the resilience and adaptability of the service members at both locations, emphasizing their ability to overcome challenges creatively. “No challenge can’t be overcome by our service members at both locations,” said Scheutzow. “The resiliency from them is something I’m absolutely proud of every day as we encounter these challenges; we’re finding the way like everyone else to be creative and work around it.”

To address shortages of other personal items, U.S. Air Forces Africa re-allocated funding to procure supplies on the local economy wherever feasible.

While some deployed military members have been authorized to depart Niger via commercial flights, as their specialties were no longer required for base operations or withdrawal preparation, the bulk of deployed forces are expected to remain until their roles are no longer necessary.

Maintaining open communication and ensuring the well-being of deployed Airmen has been a key priority for the 409th AEG leadership, with mental health professionals actively engaged in supporting personnel.

“You can’t gloss over it and say that everything is good,” Scheutzow said. “Obviously people deal with these unique situations in their own ways. We’re staffed with mental health professionals at both locations that are engaged daily, whether they’re making their rounds to the units to check on people, or scheduling appointments for people to come in and talk.”

As the withdrawal process progresses, personnel at both AB 101 and 201 are shifting their focus towards preparing for the relocation of people and equipment. Scheutzow expressed his pride in his team’s dedication and readiness to fulfill the new mission requirements, highlighting their unwavering commitment to the task at hand.  

“All the individuals out here have my utmost respect for their focus on the mission and their ability to stay and do what’s been tasked to them,” he said.