By Staff Sgt. Kulani Lakanaria, U.S. Africa CommandMarch 16, 2017
DIFFA,NIGER-- During the past three weeks, Forces Armees Nigerinnes soldiers trained with Australian, Belgium, Canadian and U.S. Special Operations Forces as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017. The training started with individual soldiering techniques such as marksmanship, first aid, land navigation, counter-explosives training and eventually progressed into advanced platoon-level maneuvers.
These skills will be critical in the multinational fight against violent extremist organizations. When called to fight, the lessons learned at Flintlock 2017 will undoubtedly increase the combat effectiveness and survivability of the Forces Armees Nigerinnes, also known as the FAN. One thing stands out -- the FAN is a willing force and every soldier takes the training seriously.
3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), or 3SFG (A), has historically been aligned to the African continent. During the Global War on Terror, 3SFG (A) was realigned to Afghanistan. The group's area of operations shifted back to Africa where Green Berets are sharing valuable lessons learned with their partners.
"One of the biggest differences between the Afghan National Army and that FAN is that they have clear lines that they draw between who they want to defend and who they identify themselves as… It's a complete contrast from Afghanistan. They're motivated because they have good leadership that sets good examples and they know that they can succeed in an organization that gives them a better option than what they might have had," said a U.S. Special Forces medical sergeant with 3SFG (A).
FAN soldiers come from across Niger. Niger has many tribal groups and some soldiers know French and some speak other languages like Hausa. By training as a unit these soldiers bonded and found common ground with each other.
"In my previous experiences training the (Afghan National Army), I've noticed that the FAN values your time. They show up willing and ready to train," said a U.S. Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Officers and noncommissioned officers in the FAN play an active role during the training by pulling soldiers aside to work with them when their platoon is learning a new skill. When a FAN soldier makes a mistake, leaders professionally tell the soldier what they did wrong and show them the right way to do things.
"We gave the FAN fundamentals and concepts of implementing different types of techniques and tactics, the fact that they absorbed a good amount of the training is because they are so motivated and they have a defined enemy. Ultimately, it's about trusting the soldiers to your left and right. The first day of training they seemed skeptical about each other. After training together they built a common ground between them and they have great working relationships," said a U.S. Special Forces medical sergeant.
From the FAN cooks to the gate guards, every soldier knows their purpose and executes their individual tasks with pride. You will never catch a FAN soldier sleeping on guard or a mechanic quitting before a vehicle is fixed.
"The officers and noncommissioned officers take pride in their work. They train their men on their own without us having to get on them. Whereas, in Afghanistan you have to tell the leaders what to do. They do their jobs to the best of their ability because of the looming Boko Haram threat in the area," said a U.S. Special Forces communications sergeant.