FORT POLK, La. – Senegal army staff officers, in an effort to build the foundation for its training center in western Africa, participated in rotation 15-10 at the Joint Readiness Training Center with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Senegalese officers here replicate a battalion staff for a maneuver force battalion from Louisiana National Guard who execute planned ground movements in Fort Polk’s training area against opposing forces. They also replicate a host nation security force team, operating in training area Dara Lam.
Maj. El Hadji Oumar Faye is a Senegalese staff officer planning for the battalion and a deputy commander for the 5th Infantry Battalion in Senegal.
Faye said it was valuable to see how the units work together in the training scenario based on the staff planning provided.
“It is a great experience for us. The U.S. Army has a lot of experience and we are interested in how they [plan for] their troops.”
These allied forces arrived at the request from Senegal military leaders during the African Land Forces Summit, attended by 36 African nations from Feb. 9-12, in Dakar, Senegal.
Capt. Timothy Penn, an Observer, Coach, Trainer for the 353rd Infantry Regiment, assists JRTC Operations Group by providing the oversight and mentorship needed to properly plan for a maneuver battalion.
Penn said that though the process moves slightly slower based on their use of analog products as opposed to digital, it is moving in the right direction.
“We are training the host nation security force directly. It has helped give us a better relationship with that country in helping to set the conditions for them to support 2/3 IBCT,” said Penn.
These staff officers have organized a tactical operations center to help 2IBCT through their rotation at JRTC.
Capt. Brian Hotchkiss is the assistant operations officer for 9th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2IBCT.
Hotchkiss synchronizes daily with the host nation force in Dara Lam as the liaison officer for 2IBCT. His job there is to coordinate security for the consulate but works closely with the host nation forces there.
Hotchkiss said he trained Senegalese Army Soldiers in infantry tactics when he was in 3rd Special Forces Group.
“My foreign language is French so I speak [their language] and they speak English,” said Hotchkiss. “We can convey a better message at the same time and build greater rapport with the host nation.”
Vermont National Guard provides facilitation of their movement to JRTC and return. They have maintained an official partnership with Senegal since 2008.
Capt, Patrick “Gene” Enriquez volunteered for this liaison assignment to JRTC to assist their visit here.
“The Vermont National Guard was invited to serve as liaisons during the training due to our bilateral relationship. We also serve as French interpreters and familiar faces for this delegation,” said Enriquez.
Faye said he hopes to create the blueprint for their tactical training center from the U.S. Army, but it is clear these staff officers will take back much more.
“Build that relationship here at JRTC; have that shared experience, and that relationship will carry on in their country,” said Penn.