U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry, 86thInfantry Brigade Combat Team in support of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Nigerien Soldiers participate in a month-long U.S. mortar system training event at Tondibiah, Niger.
The purpose of the joint training is to share and teach mortar system procedures to Nigerien mortar leaders and enable them to train current and future Nigerien mortar teams.
“Not only is this the first-time U.S. forces have trained the Nigerien military on the M224 60 Millimeter mortar system but also marks the first-time Task Force Iron Gray has stepped foot in Niger, Africa.” said U.S. Army Captain Michael Tu, Taskforce Iron Gray HHC Company commander.
Starting in May, eight Task Force Iron Gray Mortar trainers began teaching 25 Nigerien Soldiers the classroom portion of the training event.
“The classroom and hands-on portions of this training are where the foundation of everything is built, said Capt. Tu. ”The classroom training begins with classes on the use of Lensatic, M2 compasses, protractors, map reading and MGRS, then gradually goes into mounting the mortars, small/large deflection and elevation adjustments.”
A mortar is a weapon that fires explosive projectiles onto a target. Typical mortar teams consist of a gunner, assistant gunner, squad leader and an ammo man.
“Being efficient on the weapon system, and having self-confidence with their part in the gun team is necessary to training success,” said Sgt. Timothy Thorland, Task Force Iron Gray Mortar System Instructor.
The last week of the classroom portion of the training Nigerien Soldiers were tested on basic hands-on gunnery skills.
"The training the Nigerien soldiers are experiencing is extremely rigorous and the purpose of assessing them is to make sure they retained what we have taught,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ben Simon, Taskforce Iron Gray Mortar Platoon Sgt. “It is our job to make sure they are ready to utilize these skills.”
A weeks later, the Nigerien entered into a dry-fire mortar exercise that demonstrated what they have learned from the classroom portion of the training event.
“Working in the field and having hands-on practice on the equipment is super valuable,” said Sgt. Almoust Apha Zazo Abdou, Nigerien soldier. “I have learned how to make correct mortar system calculations and adjustments during this training.”
According to Sgt. Almoust Apha Zazo Abdou working together with the U.S. was a huge success.
“We really enjoy the relationship between U.S. and Niger force and hope in the future the U.S. forces will keep training our forces,” said Sgt. Almoust Apha Zazo Abdou, Nigerien soldier.
The Soldiers of Task Force Iron Gray definitely appreciated the significance and opportunity of the training event.
“The value of the training is priceless," said Spc. Will Visel, assigned to HHC, 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in support of the CJTF-HOA. "Every day I look forward to partnering with and training the Nigeriens to better understand the M224 60 Millimeter mortar system.”
A couple days later, the Nigerien soldiers returned to the classroom for a combat lifesaver training conducted by Spc. Noah Silk, Task Force Iron Gray Combat Medic.
“Teaching a combat lifesaving class is very important because medicine and techniques are always changing,” said Silk. “The Nigerien soldiers already have basic knowledge of CLS but this is just a great refresher to update their techniques.”
The CLS course is intended to bridge the gap between the minimally-trained average soldier and the highly trained Combat Medic.
The mortar training event concluded with a graduation ceremony that celebrated the month-long training the Nigerien soldiers have finished.
“The value of all this training is very significant, as this enables our Nigerien counterparts to become proficient in the employment of M224 60mm Mortar System,” said Tu. "Along with bringing valuable knowledge and techniques back to their respective units.”
The benefit from the joint mortar training event is two-fold – providing Nigerien soldiers with a tangible skill, while also bolstering the partnership between U.S. and Niger forces.
“We have had a very long relationship with the United States,” said Col. Maj. Moussa Salaou Barmou."Being able to work together in this capacity is very good for Niger.”