Each year, U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) engages in hundreds of theater security cooperation activities, events and exercises in Africa. These initiatives encompass a wide spectrum of training activities across various warfighting domains, reinforcing partner capabilities and fostering improved interoperability.
In order to assist with training activities and exercises, SETAF-AF Soldiers must maintain their own training and readiness. Soldiers permanently assigned to the unit are required to achieve qualification on an M-4 carbine, while those on temporary duty orders are expected to qualify on an M-17 pistol.
“The first things we look at before sending a Soldier to the continent is medical readiness, current with annual training and weapon qualification.” says Capt. Fernando Rubio, company commander of Intelligence and Sustainment Company, SETAF-AF.
SETAF-AF hosts ranges twice a year, specifically during the first and fourth quarters. This scheduling enables the unit to prioritize its support for executing theater security cooperation activities in Africa, including the largest multinational, joint, all-domain exercise conducted by U.S. Africa Command - African Lion.
“The operation tempo slows down during the first and fourth quarter of the year. That is the best time to be proactive with individual readiness and position us to be prepared for exercises such as African Lion and Justified Accord,” said Rubio.
SETAF-AF places emphasis on maintaining and improving Soldiers’ marksmanship by first refreshing their skills on the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST). The trainer is designed to simulate live weapon training and permit Soldiers more trigger time on a weapon, allowing them to increase confidence and familiarization once it is time to qualify their assigned weapon on the range.
“The EST helps Soldiers get comfortable with weapons they haven’t shot before and develop muscle memory…practice makes perfect!” states Sgt. 1st Class Erin Reagan, mobility and exercise non-commissioned officer with 79th Theater Sustainment Command assigned to SETAF-AF.
Soldiers are allocated one week to zero their weapons and refine their skills at the EST. Afterward, they have another week dedicated to qualify with their assigned weapons. Rubio said, “We make every effort to accommodate the schedules of Soldiers departing for and returning from diverse exercises in various parts of the world, including countries in Africa.”
The range is where Soldiers become familiar with their weapons, as the repetitive nature of firing live ammunition helps Soldiers develop muscle memory and fine-tune their marksmanship fundamental training. To qualify, Soldiers must shoot no less than twenty-three out of forty targets on the M-4 carbine, and twenty-one out of thirty on the M-17 pistol.
“You never know what’s going to happen, I can speak from experience. As soon as I graduated from AIT [Advanced Individual Training], I went to Iraq. The more you know about your weapon the better, if anything should happen, you can pick up that weapon and suppress fire,” continued Reagan.
Marksmanship is a fundamental aspect of readiness and embodies the Total Soldier Concept. It fosters weapon proficiency, reinforces safety protocols, and instills confidence in soldiers. Moreover, it contributes to SETAF-AF’s overarching mission in the continent of Africa. Africa is crucial for the security and stability of the United States, as well as for our allies and the global community. SETAF-AF cultivates partnerships with African nations through security cooperation, fostering strength through friendship and a steadfast, enduring commitment. The United States and our allies recognize the significance of Africa, and the U.S. Army is dedicated to promoting security and stability across the continent.