BUJUMBURA, Burundi -- Burundian National Defense Forces and the U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 worked together Dec. 10 as the African partners prepared to embark to the Central Africa Republic as part of the African Union mission.

On Dec. 9, the U.S. government authorized U.S. aircraft to assist the Burundian National Defense Forces with their deployment to Bangui, Central Africa Republic (CAR), according to a Department of State press release. The Marines have been in Burundi since October, taking part in military-to-military engagements focused on varied skills and knowledge including combat marksmanship, first-aid, basic infantry skills and engineering skills.

"Security Cooperation Team 2 moved to assist their partnered Burundian Forces hours after learning about [the operation]," said Lt. Col. Thomas Marble, Special-Purpose MAGTF Africa 13 commanding officer from Stafford, Va.

U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi Dawn Liberi met with 1st VP Bernard Busokoza and Chief of Defense and War Veterans MG Prime Niyongabo on Dec. 8 to facilitate close collaboration between U.S. and Burundian militaries to respond immediately to the crises in CAR. Ambassador Liberi emphasized the need for immediate deployment to help end the widespread violence and chaos that has caused such great human suffering to the people of the Central African Republic.

This event highlights Burundi's contribution to regional peacekeeping as Burundi has now deployed in an expeditionary role to two of Africa's most urgent humanitarian crises (Somalia and CAR).

Burundi's ability to deploy highly trained soldiers is the result of the 7-year military-to-military partnership between the U.S. and Burundi and reflects the long term training assistance provided by the Africa Contingency Operations Training & Assistance program. ACOTA is a State Department program that enhances the capacities and capabilities of its African Partner Countries, regional institutions, and the continent's peacekeeping resources as a whole so that they can plan for, train, deploy, and sustain sufficient quantities of professionally competent peacekeepers to meet conflict transformation requirements with minimal non-African assistance. Marines and Burundian soldiers have been partnered since 2012, working together through theater security cooperation engagements that bolster partnerships and military capacity for both forces.

"The flexibility of the Special-Purpose MAGTF and the engagement our team provided have prepared [the BNDF soldiers] well for their mission in the Central African Republic," said Marble.

The BNDF and Marines worked together to palletize equipment, stage supplies and assist in the final preparations as the soldiers embarked for their Central African Republic mission as part of the African Union force in Bujumbura, Burundi, Dec. 10-11.

"The team spent about five hours out there helping to build pallets of beans, rice, and other sustainment items as well as staging vehicles," said Maj. Matthew Berthinet, Security Cooperation Team 2 officer-in-charge. "Regular training is suspended for tomorrow so we can return to the airport and finalize some of the pallets as well as issue new [personal protective equipment] to the soldiers as they walk on the [aircraft]."

Liberi also conveyed her personal congratulations to Brig. Gen. Athanase Kararuza who will deploy to CAR as the deputy force commander of the African Union Mission to Central Africa Republic (MISCA). "His selection reflects the great confidence that the AU has in Burundi's generals, and in particular General Kararuza. The United States Government wishes him the best of luck and safety during his mission."

The Marines will continue to logistically assist the 850-man Burundian force as part of the U.S. Africa Command directed support to the French and AU mission that is providing humanitarian assistance and establishing an environment that supports a political transition to a democratically elected government.

"[Their] deployment will take several days" said Lt. Col. Dan Ebert, U.S. Defense Attaché to Burundi. "The preparation and logistical planning by the Burundians has accelerated the pace with which we can conduct this deployment. I am extremely impressed with the integration of ADAPT-A training by the Burundian military" referring to the three iterations of training provided by U.S. Army Africa under the AFRICOM sponsored Africa Deployment Assistance Partnership Training-Aircraft.