101st Airborne Division platoon provides secure training area for historic Somali National Army training
On May 24, 2017, nearly 60 Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers from a Danab battalion graduated from a U.S.-led logistics training course offered at Mogadishu, Somalia. This historic graduation, the first of three to be offered this year by U.S. Africa Command, was carried out by a small team of fewer than 20 total U.S. trainers and security personnel from the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky.
Particularly in an area where only six years ago Al-Shabaab was a dominant group, good security is necessary for any activity there.
“We couldn’t have done it without our force protection team,” said Capt. Seth Church, who was the training team officer-in-charge. “They provided us a secure area to do the training.”
All of the security personnel were from the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Brigade, 1st Battalion, Delta Company, 3rd Platoon, which laid the groundwork for securing the six-week training course.
First Lt. Conner Anderson, force protection officer-in-charge, said that being a part of the 327th Infantry Regiment, “Bastogne” Brigade, has also given his team a valuable experience working with international partners.
“There’s always a language barrier that you have to overcome, but over time we developed an understanding between each other. The Danab were a respectable group; we didn’t have any problems.”
The platoon played a vital role in the overall success of the logistics course, ensuring the safety of all parties involved. Each day the soldiers started earlier and ended later to ensure a secure training environment.
Sgt. Geoff Copus, 3rd Platoon squad leader said, “We provide force protection measures for not only the trainers but also for the Danab personnel. We meet them at the gate every morning and escort them to the training site; we also convoy with them.”
“Our main focus is to keep them protected,” he emphasized. “On the training site we are protecting both the trainers and the Danab. At the end of the day we escort them off the installation.”
Copus added that he has enjoyed being a part of this mission, “I’m excited to be a part of this, it’s a historic mission.”
During the training, they inspected and secured the classrooms, the gate, and the vehicle storage areas. In addition to securing the training site, they also accompanied the SNA during vehicle-operation and convoy training outside of the training area. At the end of each day, they safely escorted the SNA off the installation.
At the May 24 graduation ceremony, the platoon secured the area for the attendance of distinguished visitors like the Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Ali Khayre, Somalia’s Chief of Defense, Gen. Ahmed Mohamed Jimcale, and the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz.
Although providing security for training courses is not part of the platoon’s day-to-day responsibilities at their home station, they rose to the challenge and learned some lessons in international relations.
“It’s been a challenge because it’s not what we normally do.” Anderson explained, “Back home, we’re a heavy weapons platoon for an infantry battalion. As the first group for this type of training course, we had to prepare ourselves for anything. We had to build trust both ways.”