VICENZA, Italy - As part of the ongoing Africa Contingency Operations Training & Assistance (ACOTA) program, two U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) Soldiers are training members of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in Darfur. Currently members of the Sierra Leone (SL) military are serving in Darfur as part of a joint UN-African Union force.
First Lt. Salvatore Buzzurro and Sgt. 1st Class Grady Hyatt, USARAF ACOTA military mentors, assisted the Department of State as they trained on a variety of infantry skills such as improvised explosive device awareness, rifle marksmanship, movement techniques (wedge, file, staggered column), battle drills (break contact, react to a sniper and hasty attack) and establishing a combat outpost.
As in Ghana, Hyatt and Buzzurro have broken new ground.
"We are the first Army mentors to work with the ACOTA program in Sierra Leone, and it is an honor for us to represent the professional NCO [noncommissioned officer] and Officer Corp of the United States Army," Buzzurro said. "The ACOTA program is a great opportunity to establish a strong working relationship with the soldiers and leadership of Sierra Leone's military," he said.
Each subject taught is on a three-day training cycle. The last day is a practical exercise for leaders.
"Training has been tough and as realistic as resources will allow," Buzzurro said. "The soldiers are motivated and display a sense pride and discipline associated with a well-seasoned unit -- it's a pleasure working with them."
Hyatt echoed Buzzurro's thoughts.
"The cadre is top notch and has a great desire to learn from us -- staying constantly in our 'hip pocket,'" Hyatt said. "The experience we bring with a combined 36 plus years in the military seems to be greatly appreciated here by the cadre, the SL Army, and the contractors we work beside," he said.
The SL Army has been training with the ACOTA program for two years, and this is the fifth company prepping for their peacekeeping mission in another country.
"The training program for the SL Army is being revamped due to not only performing peacekeeping missions, but stepping-up to a peacemaking mission to help support other African countries in need of their support," Hyatt said.
The remaining training will include: escort, security, reconnaissance patrolling, and cordon and search. It will conclude with a three-day field training exercise where the company will occupy a combat outpost and run all the missions they have trained on.