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Catching the wind
A 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) operator collects his parachute after the “Friendship Drop” during the joint combined exchange training event at Bamako, Mali.
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352nd SOG wraps up JCET to Trans-Sahara, Africa

Posted 8/1/2006   Updated 8/1/2006 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Dennis Brewer
352nd Special Operations Group Public Affairs

8/1/2006 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- A cloud of dust kicked up by propeller wash from an MC-130 Cargo aircraft taxing out for a mission, engulfs the Senegalese Fokker-27 parked in front of a Hangar at Dakar International airport June 13. The sortie will exfiltrate, or retrieve, U.S. Army Special Forces operators from locations in Mali. 

The mission, although not the last of the Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise events to the Pan-Sahel region of Africa, is close to the end of this trip for the “Air Commandos” of the 352nd Special Operations Group. 

The unit trained and flew with members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd and 1st Battalions, 10th Special Forces Groups (Airborne), in addition to Senegalese and Malian Army paratroopers over the approximate two-week long deployment. 

Concentrating on the basic standard special operations mission sets such as long-range desert movement and patrolling and airborne resupply, JCET events are designed to enhance military effectiveness and the ongoing military-to-military relationship that the U.S. enjoys with countries in the region and are part of European Command’s partnership initiatives. 

“The training and flying operations have gone very well,” said Lt. Col. “Buck” Elton, 352nd SOG mission commander. “Not only have we delivered 100 percent of the planned requested support from our ground components, we’ve taken advantage of every training opportunity, inserting additional events in the overall operation when it was safe and reasonable to do so.” 

Early in the deployment, the unit’s search, evasion, rescue and escape instructor realized that some of the more austere locations provided a good environment for realistic training, and set up a training scenario. 

Surprised aircrew members responded to an inject card which read in part, “your aircraft is hit with a (rocket propelled grenade) and is on fire –– you have 20 seconds to evacuate the aircraft.” After five hours of sand, scrub brush, and ‘Africa-hot’ 120 to 130 degree heat, the unilateral training event was over. 

Capt. John McBeth, a doctor, assigned to the 352nd SOG, augmented an Army Medical Civil Action Project team, because the doctor originally slated to the Humanitarian Assistance mission was unable to go. Capt. McBeth volunteered to work at the remote village clinic, tending to more than 100 patients — mostly with common ailments suffered by many local nationals. 

“We treated folks for the usual –– malaria and malnutrition,” said Capt. John McBeth. A task made more difficult due to limited facilities. 

The joint medical team based out of Bamako and Gao in Mali, and Dakar in Senegal, saw approximately 400 patients in total, provided more than 200 pairs of adjustable-vision spectacles, 40 dental checkups and supplied locals with over 300 toothbrushes.
Deployments like this provide a great chance to train with Army and African airborne forces, in addition to internal Group training; impromptu or planned, the value cannot be over rated. 

“We’ve been out here for approximately six weeks, mainly working with the Malians, we’ve had an opportunity to conduct small arms training and unit tactics, and humanitarian operations alongside their troops,” said Maj. Doug Orman, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Force Group (Airborne), deployed mission commander, prior to the friendship drop on the last day of the deployment. “We always welcome the chance to work and fly with the 352nd SOG, sharing ground and air capabilities with local national forces. It enhances their training and better prepares them to police their own borders.” 

While conducting airborne operations in Senegal, the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, Janice Jacobs, watched the parachute drops aboard the MC-130H Combat Talon II. “I think it’s important people learn about how our troops go into other countries to train them and to get trained themselves,” Jacobs said. “We are all fighting the same enemy.”
Steve Kraft, U.S. Embassy to Mali, Deputy Chief of Mission, also commented on the importance of the training exchange. 

“It was excellent. This type of military cooperation is needed and well received by the Malian military and government,” he said. 

“Not only did we accomplish great training for the 352nd SOG, but we also helped build better relationships with many other partners in the Global War on Terrorism. Teamwork with Army Special Forces and the Embassy teams was outstanding. I was especially pleased with the desire of the host nations to work with the United States to deny terrorists a safe haven in the region,” said Col. Brian Cutts, 352nd SOG deputy commander.

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