The 101st Airborne Division, based out of Fort Campbell, Ky., has trained the first logistics class of the Somali National Army (SNA) in support of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), during a 6-week training course in Mogadishu, Somalia.
The course concluded May 24, 2017, with a graduation ceremony attended by the Prime Minister of Somalia, Hassan Ali Khayre, Somalia’s Chief of Defense, Gen. Ahmed Mohamed Jimcale, and the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz.
The importance of logistics and the impact of its effectiveness during a military campaign are highlighted in the 5th century BC book written by ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, “The Art of War.” Sun Tzu wrote, “The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.”
Understanding the great importance of logistics to improve its military operations, the Federal Government of Somalia requested that the U.S. military assist with training and equipping Somali National Security Forces with vehicles and logistics expertise.
As a result, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) coordinated the development of a series of programs to build a logistics capability within the SNA. This planning process, which took more than two years to identify the needs and go through the process of budget approvals, led to U.S. Army Africa sending a team of five trainers and about a dozen security support personnel to develop a curriculum and train about 60 Danab SNA soldiers in several subjects like vehicle operation and maintenance, administration and records keeping, and troop leadership. This will be one of three logistics courses the U.S. will offer to the SNA this year.
Capt. Seth Church, 101st Airborne Division, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, was the training team officer in charge of the logistics training course.
Church explained that in order to improve the way the Danab handled their logistics, they had to begin with identifying what systems the Danab had in place. “We worked with their staff to identify what their systems and processes were, and then offered how we do it—more of a partnership and exchanging ideas,” he said.
The Danab were provided a fleet of vehicles and equipment to execute the training and to perform their missions following graduation.
“This is part of a train and equip mission, so all the equipment and vehicles you see here have been provided to them and they have been trained on how to operate them.” said Church.
According to the U.S. trainers, the Danab soldiers were eager to learn. Many lacked formal driving training and part of the course was to familiarize them with a driver safety course specific to the vehicles they would be operating. Beyond that, they were also given instruction on accounting for and maintaining those vehicles.
“We definitely witnessed some development in their leadership,” Church added. “They were very curious and we taught them some basic Microsoft Excel sheet methods of record keeping and watched as they began to implement some of our systems.”
The commander of the SNA Danab Battalion, who wished to remain anonymous, said that his soldiers were very pleased with the training and are proud to be the first graduating class. “We are the first of the Somalia National Army to receive this type of training, so we are very happy to be the first ones” he said.
The Danab battalion commander explained that in past, the focus was on training their war fighters to be ready of combat. The emphasis on paperwork, or creating a headquarters that tracks the movement of equipment assets and troops have always been done in their own way, but they lacked the formal systems and paperwork for accountability. The 101st showed examples of how to keep an effective system of records and why that is beneficial. The commander added that, “It goes along well with my government’s vision to fight corruption and display transparent accountability.”
Along with the logistics training, the vehicles and equipment will aid the SNA forces in their efforts to fight violent extremism and maintain security and stability in Somalia, particularly as Somalia prepares for the anticipated AMISOM transition out of the country by 2020.
“All these support vehicles have been given to us, we are very excited, and to have been trained on how to properly use the equipment,” said the Danab battalion commander. “For instance, how to operate a recovery vehicle, it’s a first time for many. How to operate, maintain and sustain water reserves, or fuel truck or maintenance truck, etcetera. It’s been very successful. A lot of this stuff has been missing, and we have filled that gap.”
The Danab SNA officer in charge of the group that went through the training, who also wished to remain anonymous, said, “The logistics training was good, we also found the medical training was very helpful, and the human rights portion was very informative as well as the leadership class.” He continued, “We have no complaints. It was all good training. The U.S. provides the best training; we only wish it was longer.”
During the convoy-operations training part of the course, the group spent the morning going over the operation orders. They reviewed maps, orchestrated a plan of action and prepared themselves to execute. They were then given a fragmentation order and needed to adjust their plan. The experience taught them to prepare to be flexible, and to adapt and overcome with their planning process. “The changing of the orders is something we do well. Somalia has a saying that we are always ready and waiting for the next order,” added the Danab battalion training captain.
Another area in which the Danab SNA forces were trained was in vehicle maintenance.
Sgt. Anthony Aguirre, a mechanic with the 101st Airborne Division and one of the trainers, noticed that in the beginning of the course, the soldiers had a reactive system to taking care of their equipment, waiting for things to break instead of preventing that failure.
“They have mechanics and we worked to implement a system for all members to identify issues and bring them to their mechanics to check on their vehicles and provide preventative maintenance, Aguirre said. “So, we gave them the cornerstone for a standardization and hope for them to build on that.”
Church said he was impressed with the overall performance of the Danab SNA soldiers.
“Coming into this, you don’t really know what to expect about the people you’ll be working with,” he began. “I can honestly say that I was impressed by their professionalism, their courteousness, and enthusiasm to learn. We were treated very well throughout the course. I have a lot of respect for this army and the way they are doing things.”
Through military-to-military engagements like this bi-lateral training effort with Somalia, AFRICOM and its subcomponent CJTF-HOA strengthens relationships with African partner nations and helps build the defense capability and capacity of their security forces. The logistics training program coincides with the top priority of the AFRICOM Theater Campaign Plan, which is to neutralize Al-Shabaab and transition the African Union Mission to Somalia.