French, U.S. forces train together at Exercise Wakri

U.S. and French forces collaborate for the 2023 iteration of Exercise Wakri between Dec. 3 and Dec. 6, 2023.



By Staff Sgt. Dylan Gentile Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Djibouti, Djibouti Dec 19, 2023
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ALI SABIEH, Djibouti-- A convoy of Light Medium Tactical Vehicles carrying Soldiers kicks up dust along a one-track gravel road in the ravines between a rocky mountainscape. The rugged tires grind to an abrupt halt as the sound of gunfire erupts in the distance. Groups of infantrymen pour out of their transports and rush up the mountain face towards the sound. They drop prone among the rocks and begin their return fire. These Soldiers are an essential component of Exercise Wakri, a joint training engagement between French and U.S. forces.

With the help of Soldiers from Task Force Tomahawk, a U.S. Army infantry unit assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, French forces tested their ability to respond to a land invasion. In the exercise, the two sides fought over essential infrastructure such as railroads and power lines. The U.S. Forces play the role of adversaries as the French try to halt their advance before they can make it to Djibouti City, the nation’s political and economic center.

“These exercises strengthen our relationships with our French partners,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Hamblin, Exercise Wakri action officer. “They have been really helpful throughout the entire process, both in the planning and the execution.”

A platoon of 15 Tomahawk Soldiers set up camps to sleep in throughout the rural desert areas of Djibouti alongside their French counterparts. They trade Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and use red flashlights to find their way through the darkness. Equipped with sleeping bags and mosquito nets, they rest and prepare for another day of playing the opposing force, where they will once again attempt to out-maneuver their French partners.

As the sun rises, the French and American convoys go their separate ways to play their roles again. The Americans take the offensive position and set off on foot across the rolling desert hills. When they reach a crest in the landscape, scouts head out in search of French adversaries and plot the path to their next position.

“While the situation was always evolving, all parties involved showed strong adaptability,” said Army Cpt. Anthony Sandrin, Task Force Tomahawk’s plans officer. “The Task Force performed well in their responsibilities while integrating with French forces during the exercise.”

Occasionally forces will face injects during the exercise, encountering simulated complications such as refugees, casualties, or troops in contact. The service members have to work together to figure out how to deal with these situations.

“Wakri is traditionally a French-led exercise where Americans provide a role as oppositional forces,” said Hamblin. “We’ve been playing a game of hide and seek where an armored French platoon hunts us down before we can secure critical infrastructure.”

The French troops, playing the defensive position, bring in armored and tactical vehicles and a tank. Americans, playing the offensive position, primarily bring troop carriers as well as an ambulance for first aid.

Complicated maneuvers and simulated firefights gave all the Soldiers an immersive training experience. The logistics of moving people and supplies and maintaining communications while moving across the landscape gave insight into the problems forces might face on a strategic level in a real-world conflict.

“Throughout this mobilization, we’ve had the opportunity to work with the French through Wakri, multiple airborne jumps, the French Desert Commando Course, artillery live fire events, and numerous small arms ranges,” said Sandrin. “It has been enlightening to have the opportunity to engage with them, build camaraderie and rapport, and further strengthen our partnership moving forward.”

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