U.S., Cameroon work together to counter illicit trafficking, improve maritime safety
By Staff Sgt. Bryan Peterson, Marine Corps Forces Africa
LIMBE, Cameroon -- U.S. Marines and sailors are working with Cameroon’s Fusiliers Marins and Compagnie des Palmeurs de Combat to increase their capabilities to combat illicit activity and increase security in the waterways and borders of Cameroon.
At the request of the Cameroon government and through coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, are partnering with their military counterparts in infantry tactics in support of their maritime security force capabilities.
The small team of Marines are currently attached to Africa Partnership Station, which is an international security cooperation initiative sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and other collaborative activities in order to improve maritime security and safety in Africa.
The Marines and sailors are conducting training in combat marksmanship, patrolling, ambush techniques, close-quarters combat, tactical questioning and operations orders.
The goal is to assist the units to defend Cameroon’s border against everything from illicit activities, such as countering violent extremist organizations such as Boko Haram, which has kidnapped scores of children, mostly girls, and then using them as suicide bombers to target military and innocent civilians, in the country’s northeastern Borno State, according to 1st Lt. Ryan T. Murray, the SPMAGTF-CR-AF APS team officer in charge.
During the month-long mission, the Marines will train FUMA and COPALCO to work together, so they “can seize an objective during the final exercise,” adding some of the troops present for the training have real-world experience to add to the training evolution.
“The Fusilier Marins are basically out of their recruit training, so some of this is new to them," said Murray. “But, they are a solid group of men who are working well together. The ultimate goal for FUMA and COPALCO is to ensure they are combat ready and ready to demonstrate their ability to utilize small-unit infantry tactics in a kinetic environment.”
In a press release from the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon, last year, U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon Michael S. Hoza stated the U.S. government is committed to stand with and support Cameroon as their forces counter illicit trafficking and Boko Haram so that all citizens can build a future of peace and prosperity for all Cameroonians through their talents, contributions, efforts, and ideas.
The Ambassador also stated Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander for U.S. Africa Command, visited Cameroon to reassure Cameroon that the United States remains committed to assisting the country’s fight against Boko Haram.
“We have U.S. military advisors and trainers in Cameroon at the invitation of the [Cameroon] government to train and support the Cameroonian security forces in their fight against Boko Haram,” said Hoza, in the press release. “This commitment is firm, and will continue for as long as Cameroon welcomes it.”
Though the APS mission is to train the Cameroonians to protect their borders and inland waterways, the waterways lead to the Lake Chad Basin, one of the areas where the COPALCO and FUMA work together, an area where Boko Haram is known to operate.
Cameroon Navy Lieutenant Commander Patrick Nnon Mabiom, COPALCO commander, and his troops are in their third iteration with the U.S. Marines and the partnership has already paid its dividends.
In the past year, Mabiom and his troops employed the Marines’ training from past engagements to combat illicit trafficking and terrorism and welcomes future training opportunities as “we can continue to build on previous training and continue to get better.”
“Because of this training, we are better prepared to address the security concerns facing our country,” said Mabiom. “Whether it’s stopping illicit trafficking or fighting Boko Haram or any other threat, we have the training we need to get the job done. We hope to continue this partnership because we [U.S. and Cameroon] can see the benefits coming out of it.”
The training they are conducting significantly contributes to the partnership between the two countries, Murray added.
“When we work with our Cameroonian partners to assist them to counter terrorism and illicit trafficking, it goes to show that both sides are committed to provide a safe environment for everyone,” said Murray. “They are brave, willing and ready to stop what the bad guys are doing to their country, whether it’s illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons or terrorism. This is a mutually beneficial engagement.”