JAJI, Nigeria -- Twelve U.S. Army soldiers deployed to Nigeria Army's School of infantry to train more than 200 Nigerian soldiers for seven weeks, Jan. 15 - Feb. 22, 2018.
Facilitated by U.S. Army Africa, eight Security Assistance and Training Management Organization, Fort Bragg, North Carolina soldiers teamed up with four soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, to share ground-combat tactics with the Nigerian Army's 26th Infantry Battalion.
"We brief them the mission, conduct the lane and follow it up with an assessment," said Capt. Stephen Gouthro, the U.S. Army officer-in-charge of the training course. "Sometimes, the assessment is brutal. We do not sugarcoat it. If there is a better way to conduct a mission, they need to know. Honest and direct feedback is best."
"We've seen movement to contact on a particular objective," said USARAF's commanding general, Brig. Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf, referring to a maneuver he observed during a visit to Jaji. "We've seen platoon-level movement principles being guided by our [U.S. Army] cadre in terms of their combat experiences, but also bringing in the Nigerian Army's experiences."
The U.S. Army training team developed the comprehensive seven-week course following an invitation from the Nigerian government. Instruction included offense and defensive tactics such as reacting to contact, countering an improvised-explosive device, and seizing an objective.
The training also offered operational planning geared toward young Nigerian lieutenants including leadership skills, orders production, and the one-third/two-thirds planning rule (meaning: if there are six hours to plan a mission, officers should plan for two and give their soldiers at least four hours to conduct their own planning and preparations).
"[The infantry training course] is an opportunity for us to contribute to the capacity building of our partner nation," LeBoeuf said. "To further their skill-sets and to take that into the field, into the fight."
"The significance of this training cannot be underestimated," said Guothro. "We developed the training program according to the Nigerian Army's needs. We will push them because their life may depend on it."
The 26th Infantry Battalion could be Nigeria Army's next unit to deploy to the Borno State, an area in northwest Nigeria and a location that's seen frequent attacks from the violent extremist organization, Boko Haram.
Last year, Boko Haram (which roughly translates to 'Western Education is Forbidden') killed more than 350 Nigerian civilians according to the Nigerian Senate. Aside from militaristic ambush attacks, Boko Haram is known for suicide bombings, burning villages and kidnapping women and children. In 2014, the group gained notoriety in the western-world by then First Lady Michelle Obama tweeting to 'bring our girls home,' referring to the 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram in the Nigerian town, Chibok.
The Nigerian Army, along with support from the Multi-National Joint Task Force, has made great strides in containing and degrading the downsized terrorist group. Last month, 700 abducted civilians were freed from Boko Haram's grasp, according to Aljazeera. Last week, Maj. Gen. Rogers Nicholas, Nigeria Army's theatre commander, said Boko Haram is completely defeated and on the run, according to local Nigerian News.
"A tremendous and professional land force," LeBoeuf acclaimed in reference to the Nigerian Army. "Highly engaged in different operations. Not only countering Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa, but also contributing stability forces to peacekeeping operations throughout the continent [of Africa]."
The U.S./Nigeria infantry training has significant implications outside of on-the-ground tactical maneuvers. This bilateral military-to-military training carries diplomatic weight showcasing the U.S.'s commitment to its African partners and Nigeria's commitment to countering violent extremist organizations.
"Together they'll make a strong, cohesive unit as they conduct this training event," LeBoeuf said.