I never thought I’d be back in Africa,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Issaka Guebre, a Burkina Faso native. “Having the opportunity to do this course in Africa means a lot.”
Guebre, a combat medic with Civil Affairs East Africa Southern European Task Force Africa (CA-EA SETAF-AF), in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, is one of about 40 U.S. Servicemembers who participated in this month’s iteration of the French Desert Commando Course (FDCC).
The multi-day course consisted of various land and water obstacles, combative training, and extreme endurance exercises in order to challenge participants both physically and mentally. Those that completed each obstacle successfully in the allotted time, received the coveted FDCC badge at the end of the course.
While the course was challenging in itself, the biggest hurdle for Guebre was the water obstacle course.
“To participate in this course, I had to learn how to swim,” said Guebre. “It’s my weakest point, but I still wanted to challenge myself.”
With nothing short of determination and the help from some other FDCC participants, Guebre managed to pass the swim assessment given prior to the start of the course and qualify for FDCC. Participating in the course has not only allowed Guebre to challenge himself, but it’s also provided an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. forces and the French forces as he was the only participant fluent in French.
“The instructors don’t all speak English, and they definitely appreciate the fact that someone can speak their language and help translate,” said Guebre. “It helps things run a little smoother and brings both the French forces and U.S. forces together.”
Unfortunately, Guebre did not complete the water obstacle course, but rather than give up, he persevered for the team until the end, continuing as their platoon medic and translator.
“I think he was bummed once he knew he didn’t pass the water portion, but he didn’t let that affect the team,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Rolland Cheng, a FDCC participant and the CA-EA SETAF-AF team lead. “Guebre is just one of those people that makes people feel good anywhere he is and he definitely continued to try and push the team and do what he could for everyone.”
“I’m glad I was able to complete the course as I’ve learned a lot,” said Guebre. “I feel more confident and I’m proud to have been able to represent as a medic and translator.”
**Edit (May 19, 2021): Guebre had the opportunity to participate in the COMMANDO phase once more and successfully completed the water course. He was officially awarded the FDCC badge May 18, 2021.