Recently, a two-man traveling contact team from U.S. Army Africa journeyed to The Democratic Republic of the Congo to run a three-week Basic Intelligence Course for 29 members of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo known as FARDC.
USARAF's Lt. Col. Chris Dillard and Master Sgt. Frederick Blackburn conducted the course with assistance of two French interpreters at FARDC's advanced military school group known as Groupement des Ecoles Supérieures Militaires or GESM near Kinshasa. Dillard and Blackburn are part of the security cooperation section of USARAF's G-2, Intelligence Directorate.
"As part of security cooperation and assistance, we worked with a group of FARDC military personnel to show them the basics of information collection and analysis and how it can be used by their commanders to support decision they make," Dillard said.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is located in Equatorial Africa and has a land mass roughly equal to one-quarter of the U.S. It is a former French colony with the official language being French.
French-fluent instructors from the Regional Joint Intelligence Training Facility, Molesworth, United Kingdom, ensured a smooth flow of course work. Papa Sall, lead instructor, and Garry Blood worked along with Dillard and Blackburn to provided blocks of instruction on writing for intelligence reports, intelligence preparation of the environment, information collection management, as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance known as ISR.
"A key component to the success of this course, and the drastic improvement made by the students; i.e., their ability to work together in groups and present formal military intelligence briefings, lies with the lead RJITF instructor, Papa Sall," Dilliard said.
"There was no need for interpreters as Papa Sall, who was born in Senegal and is a native French speaker. Additionally, he served as an officer in the U.S. military and is a U.S. citizen. Additionally, Garry Blood is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and French speaker," Dillard said. "Mr. Sall's background as a U.S. Soldier, native French language ability, native Senegalese citizenship, intuition, as well as patience and persistence all contributed to the elimination and/or reduction of these barriers, and a greatly improved learning environment."
According to Blackburn, the FARDC soldiers came to the course prepared and ready to learn.
"I found the students from FARDC to be highly involved and enthusiastic. The course was effective in bringing new skills to some students while sharpening and reinforcing skills of other students who had obviously had exposure to this type of training previously," Blackburn, a Lawrenceville, Ga. native, said. "Overall, the level of participation and engagement by the students exceeded my expectations and I was quite impressed with the students, especially when they were required to give briefings and detail their analysis during the course," he said.
For Dillard, who calls Chicago, Ill., home, working in Equatorial Africa represents a hefty climate change.
"Winter in the Congo is hot muggy, unlike Chicago and Vicenza. In Kinshasa the daily temperatures often top 90 degrees Fahrenheit at more than 90 percent relative humidity. It was definitely a challenge staying cool and dry in the classroom," Dillard said.
Dillard explained benefits of the course.
"There are several positive aspects of the BIC, but one of the most important aspects is that we are sharing capacity with the FARDC. As a result, they will enhance capabilities in peacekeeping operations, improve military decision making, intelligence preparation of environment and other intelligence staff operations," Dillard said.
"TCTs also foster increased partnership and stability in the DRC. As Master Sgt. Blackburn said, these soldiers come to class ready to learn. With the prospect of follow-on training, their morale, confidence and critical thinking skills can expand and likely improve their willingness to remain in the service and loyal to the government," Dillard said.
Lt. Col. Mike McCullough, chief of the Office of Security Cooperation for the U.S. Embassy in the DRC, mirrors Dillard's comments on the course's accomplishments.
"The Basic Intelligence course is one of our most successful engagement activities," McCullough said. "The BIC has not only served as a platform to professionalize this group of soldiers within the FARDC it also has facilitated greater public transparency due to our media coverage."