MUDUBUGU, Burundi (July 24, 2012) -- Sgt. Tommy Cummings discovered learning to say "hello" in a host-nation language can be more than just a friendly gesture.
Cummings, along with Sgt. 1st Class Justin Marr, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Patterson, Sgt. 1st Class Adam Rosario, Sgt. David Jacobs, and Cpl. Stephen Oates, Task Force Raptor, 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, Texas Army National Guard, were invited to participate in a joint training seminar with Burundi National Defense Force soldiers May 28 - June 8, 2012.
The two-week event allowed the Burundi National Defense Force, or BNDF, trainers the opportunity to work with U.S. Soldiers and, together, mentor BDNF soldiers on skills such as combat lifesaver, tactical combat casualty care, mechanized infantry and mortars.
Jacobs, an Army medic for Task Force Raptor, realized this was a great opportunity to share his skills with partner-nation soldiers.
"These are men and women whom one day might have to use these skills to save their fellow soldier's life," Jacobs said. "So I'm glad that we were able to share what we knew with them."
While Jacobs and Oates helped the BNDF trainers mentor more than 100 Burundi soldiers on combat medical skills, Patterson and Rosario shared their infantry skills with a separate group, roughly the same size.
"We had over 120 Burundi soldiers attend the class we and the BNDF mentors gave," Patterson said. "We shared basic mechanized infantry skills and military operations in urban terrain with them."
The Burundi soldiers continued working on their soldiering skills by attending the mortar skills session Marr and Cummings helped facilitate. Despite the long days and extensive curriculum, the BDNF mentors had a positive way to keep the soldiers engaged, Cummings noted.
"In between classes and during breaks, they would have the soldiers compete by doing pushups," Cummings said. "It really seemed to help keep not only motivation, but attention high in the class room as well."
Together with Cummings and Marr, the BNDF mentors shared their mortar skills with more than 200 soldiers. This seemed to be a difficult task to accomplish at first because of the language barrier, but with the help of a simple word in Swahili, Cummings quickly broke the ice.
"I learned how to say 'hello' in their language," Cummings said. "'Jambo,' I said to them one morning and it soon opened up the floor for discussion; we were now able to exchange skills that one day might save someone's life. I realized then, that no matter whether we're American or Burundi, we're all soldiers."
U.S. Soldiers from 3-124 CAV conduct various military-to-military exchanges in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, whose mission is to build partnerships with nations in East Africa.