USARAF trains Nigerian Ranger Battalion for full spectrum operations
May 9, 2014
By Mindy Anderson, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
For the first time, U.S. Army personnel will travel to Africa to train a Nigerian Ranger Battalion for decisive action, meaning the training they receive will help the Nigerian Army counter a real threat within their country.
Normally, USARAF partners and trains battalions to go on peace keeping missions for the UN, but at the request of the Nigerian government, they along with a mix of Special Forces and general purpose forces from the National Guard and active duty are all coming together to provide full-spectrum operational training for the 650-man ranger battalion.
'What we're doing with the Nigerian Army is helping them take a ranger battalion that already exists and provide infantry skills to enable them to go counter a threat within their country, and it is not peacekeeping -- it is every bit of what we call decisive action, meaning those soldiers will go in harm's way to conduct counter insurgency operations in their country to defeat a known threat, and it's all purely funded by the Nigerians,' said Col. John D. Ruffing, chief of USARAF's Security Cooperation Division. 'So, they asked us for assistance, and we tailored a package that we agreed on and they influenced and help us put in parameters to work with.'
In September 2013, Maj. Liam Connor, West Africa Desk Officer escorted the Nigerian Directorate of Training to the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga.
'Following the visit, the Nigerian Army came back to us with a Ranger Training/Advanced Infantry Training request,' Connor said. 'We worked for several months to come up with a program of instruction that stayed within the limitations of the almost $400,000 the Nigerian Army would provide us. This training was specifically requested to take them out of a peacekeeping mission set putting them more in a decisive action set to defeat and counter terrorist Boko Haram.
There are six military-to-military events currently taking place in Nigeria to assess and understand how the unit works.
'It is a formed unit, but is a newly formed unit within the past few months,' Connor said. 'Our team's on the continent trying to understand their current level of operations, their daily battle rhythm, and overall capabilities. Then, beginning in two weeks we will have a team of 12 individuals go to the continent for 35 days to train them on basic and advanced infantry tactics.'
The military-to-military events are not training events, they are purely familiarization practices, said. Maj. Albert Conley III, SCD Staff Officer.
'We're showing them our ethics program and letting them revisit their own ethics program so they can conduct a range and show us how they can conduct a range,' Conley said. 'Right now with the engagements we've already done, we have learned they are very receptive to everything that we're discussing with them; they are very good at land navigation; they are a very competent unit with all the basic skills; and we are helping them sharpen their skills. For example, we have discussed with them our system of having an arms room so every soldier can be assigned their own weapon vice just going in on a daily basis and grabbing a new weapon that is not tailored to the individual. '
Additionally, the Nigerian Army has allocated 40 of its officers and noncommissioned officers to serve as cadre.
'This is a huge benefit that we're able to produce not only a battalion but also produce the Nigerian capacity to help with training themselves,' said LTC Vinnie Garbarino, USARAF's International Military Engagements Officer. 'I think this is going to be the first of a couple of battalion training efforts that the Nigerians are going to undertake, so training their own trainers is huge because it offsets the student to instructor ratio. Our 12 guys don't go very far, but when you add 40 competent Nigerian cadre members to the equation -- they are doing quite a bit of the heavy lifting. A lot of the military-to-military familiarization currently going on is with the cadre at that battalion so when we do get into the training portion, none of the concepts and tasks will be new.'
A lot of the tasks are modeled off of the tasks from the U.S. Ranger School since that's what the Nigerians saw at Fort Benning.
'We will provide fundamentals of patrolling, small unit tactics, ambush/raid attack, movements of contact, night operations as opposed to the more traditional UN focused peace keeping tasks like patrolling, cordon and search, and establish checkpoints,' Garbarino said. 'We want these soldiers to take the fight to Boko Haram in the restricted terrain and really eliminate the threat within their borders so they can get back to peacekeeping operations.'
This battalion is being trained at the Nigerian Army Training Center.
'We're looking at future opportunities with this training center because they're looking at roughly 7,000 Nigerian soldiers between now and September rotating through,' Garbarino said. 'Training a battalion at a time is great, but if we can hit the institutional piece there we increase the aperture of how many Nigerians we are able to influence in a shorter period.
In addition to the pre-deployment training provided, Connor said the Nigerian Army's Training Center also conducts regular courses on counter terrorism that looks very much like advanced infantry training courses.
'These POIs run anywhere from a two- to six-week course, and is another way for us to engage and interact more with a larger population of Nigerian forces rather than just one battalion,' Connor said.
What USARAF is doing with the Nigerian Ranger Battalion is one small piece of a greater effort with multiple activities that are linked together to achieve a shared vision.
'We're helping Nigeria and its neighbors to develop Boko Haram strategy, so when getting permission from the Department of State, part of our measures of effectiveness had to be explained to them,' Conley said. 'Measures of effectiveness with the Nigerian rangers that are in sync with what's going on regionally such as a reduction of suspected human rights violations; increased engagement with Boko Haram by the Nigerian Military; and increased cross border coordination between Nigeria and partners are the end state of where we want to be.'
'The Nigerian Army, Conley said, is one piece of that; increasing the cadre at the Nigerian Training Center is another piece of that so it's building a capability and at some point building a staff capability and a cross-border capability for Nigeria and its neighbors to help facilitate everything.' 'The key is they have to create the strategy. It can't be a U.S.-directed strategy so we are helping them facilitate the creation of strategy, development of a strategy, and then once they do that, help modify that strategy to make sure it's hitting the end states everyone wants.
Garbarino said another part of what USARAF is doing is identifying capabilities and requirements of Nigeria and its neighbors to combat Boko Haram threats.
'For example, helping them develop an intel picture so they can see forward to conduct operations in the right place at the right time to get at the threat,' Garbarino said. 'Showing them how to share that information regionally so they're not just chasing threats out of Cameroon and creating a worse situation in Chad or Nigeria will allow for complimentary effects regionally through what we're doing with the individual countries.'
As the capabilities continue to grow in Nigeria they can see to it, sustain it, and share that information with their partners to get at the containment piece then they are postured to defeat the threat.
'And this is more difficult than it sounds,' Conley said. 'It sounds easy but there's a lot of coordination. It's hard enough for a country to share intelligence within itself because it's hard to disseminate intelligence on a national level. What we're trying to help them do is not only share information with themselves, but share information with their neighbors. And not only are we asking them to disseminate information with their neighbors, we're asking them to do it near real time so it has to be responsive and immediate so they can action on it -- it's a difficult thing and requires a lot of preparation.
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