JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Two U.S. Army Soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard visited African countries Togo and Benin Feb. 6-17, 2023, to exchange best practices in countering improvised explosive devices with Togalese Armed Forces and Benin Armed Forces.
U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Dale Burdette and Alex Radi, both members of the Jamestown-based 817th Engineer Company (Sapper), participated in a counter-improvised explosive device knowledge exchange with the Togolese Armed Forces in the Republic of Togo, Feb. 6 to 10, 2023. This class is an important topic with increased violent extremism occurring within the borders of the Republic of Togo.
The following week, Burdette and Radi trained with the Benin Armed Forces.
The Republic of Benin’s border with Burkina Faso to the north and Nigeria to the east has witnessed an increase in violent extremism. From December 2021 to September 2022 there were 43 events in Benin involving violent extremist organizations, some employing IEDs as a weapon of terror.
The Benin Armed Forces are working with other Benin federal agencies, including the national police and Department of Emigration and Immigration officers, to conduct security and presence patrols throughout the northern part of the country.
The North Dakota National Guard Soldiers worked with the Benin Soldiers in planning for a practical exercise that incorporated counter-IED mission planning during mounted and dismounted patrols.
Benin and Togo have partnered with North Dakota in the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program since 2014.
This is the first State Partnership Program engagement for Radi. He stated this is the most unique engagements he has ever done outside a deployment.
“It was an absolute pleasure working with our partner nations of Togo and Benin on counter-IED awareness and planning," Radi said. "It was very informative listening to their concerns, experiences on peacekeeping missions, and fielding their questions. It made me think a lot about my deployment to Iraq and the great training I received from the leaders of the 817th Engineer Co. I hope I was able to pass on some of my knowledge to help keep as many of these soldiers in Togo and Benin as safe as possible."