ST. LOUIS, Senegal -- More than 20 U.S. Marines, sailors and coast guardsmen with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa taught and trained more than 30 Compagnie Fusilier de Marin Commandos small-boat operations and maintenance in St. Louis, Senegal, June 29-July 3, 2015.
After several weeks of training in ground-based infantry tactics, the service members and their Senegalese partners took to the water in an effort to enhance the group’s sea-to-land skills. The Fusilier Marins Commandos are a Marine equivalent unit in the Senegalese armed forces whose operations are characterized by land and water based patrols, making proficiency in light infantry and small-boat operations crucial to their mission.
“The [Fusilier Marins] hold a similar role to that of the Marines,” said U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Bowden, the officer-in-charge of boat operations with SPMAGTF-CR-AF. “We wanted to make sure they are comfortable on the water.”
The techniques taught included basic engine maintenance for long-term use, broaching and riding for boat recovery purposes, patrol formations, and man overboard drills. These skills gave the Senegalese an idea of what to expect in case of an emergency situation or enemy sighting.
“During chase boats, we ensured the following boat stayed out of the other’s wake in order to maintain speed and eventually capture the boat,” said Cpl. Nicholas Mittrucker, a coxswain instructor with SPMAGTF-CR-AF.
By demonstrating and practicing the separate formations, the service members gave the Commandos a foundation of understanding when conducting sea-to-shore operations.
“Different formations are used depending on the situation. Sometimes you want stealth or all of the firepower towards the front,” said Mittrucker.
Operational tactics were only one side of the coin. The Marines and Coast Guardsmen also taught the Senegalese engine maintenance procedures and troubleshooting techniques.
“The boat has to run well in order to complete missions,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Dillman, a maintenance instructor with SPMAGTF-CR-AF. “You have to combine [maintenance and operations]. I think they tie in very well.”
Once on the water, the Marine coxswains transitioned from demonstrating to observing, allowing the Fusilier Marins coxswains hands-on training during patrolling formations.
“While I was on the boat, I’d let the Senegalese coxswain and assistant coxswain take control while providing guidance,” said Mittrucker.
Like the Marine Corps, the commandos are amphibious in nature and rely on sea-to-land operations for mission success. The Marins Commandos are training in preparation for upcoming deployments to the Casamance region of Senegal and other various locations throughout Africa.
“We tried to pass to the Senegalese that, while boat training carries an inherent risk, they are an excellent way to conduct military operations,” said Bowden.