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  • 2015
U.S., Benin partnership training ends with strengthened border police

By Staff Sgt. Bryan Peterson, Marine Corps Forces Africa

TOFFO, Benin -- U.S. and Benin officials witnessed history in the making in the small West African country at Benin’s National Police Academy Sept. 25, 2015.

More than 150 National Surveillance Police students graduated from a month-long U.S. Marine Corps led training that included weapons handling, combat marksmanship, patrolling, close-quarters combat, tactical site exploitation, tactical questioning and the operations order process.

Benin’s Minister of Interior Placide Azande, U.S. Embassy Benin’s Chargé d'affaires Todd Whatley, military leaders and a host of other distinguished guests were on hand for the ceremony.

It is the first time in the National Surveillance Police’s 10-year history a foreign military has trained and mentored the specialized unit.

The Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa came to Benin as part of a theater security cooperation mission to build the NSP’s capacity to counter illicit trafficking along the country’s borders.

The training officially ended during an early morning exercise at Benin’s Military Officer Academy in Toffo, northwest of Cotonou, where U.S. Marines evaluated NSP instructors leading their men in patrols, ambushes and raids.

The training came at a time where Benin officials are being “proactive vice reactive,” with current issues along the country’s borders, said Azande.

“There are a lot of issues in West Africa, to include Benin, such as terrorism and drug trafficking,” said Azande. “Also, with our country’s military commitment to fight Boko Haram with our neighboring countries, we know we will be a target, especially since we haven’t had a terrorist attack from them. We have to be prepared on the borders to reduce that risk.

“We have to have the best training for our border police and having the Marines here was a very great asset. Benin is a very grateful nation for their time here.”

For the past month, while conducting business in and around Cotonou, Whatley said he was constantly approached by Beninese people who thanked the U.S. for their pledge to improve border security.

He said word traveled fast about the Marines’ presence and that they were “excited to see the U.S. Marines” training the policemen every day.

“We all need to work together to develop a multi-agency, multi-national, coordinated approach to provide the necessary training and mentoring to the West African law enforcement community to reinforce their interdiction capacity at all borders,” said Whatley. “This training helped strengthen the U.S.-Benin relationship on border security.”

1st Lt. Clifford A. Miles, the SPMAGTF-CR-AF team leader, said the bond between the Marines and NSP “grew bigger and bigger every day.” He attributed that to the energy from both sides.

“Since day one, they were ready,” said Miles. “These guys are ready to get out to their border police stations and do what they signed up to do. They’re motivated to do so because they’ve seen what goes on at their borders and to their people. We’re happy to be here to teach them whatever they need to get the job done.”

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