Tongo Tongo Memorial Challenge
By Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Coleman, 435th Air Expeditionary Wing
/ Published October 12, 2018
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron and 724th EABS hosted memorial challenges to honor four U.S. Soldiers Oct. 4 at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, and Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger respectively.
Approximately 150 service members, to include U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy personnel, as well as French, Italian and German service members participated in the challenge held on the anniversary of the attack. The challenge was a 5K with four stations along the route where participants completed exercises.
While the challenge differed slightly between the Niamey and Agadez air bases, the basic concept was the same - four exercises in honor of each member were to be completed throughout the course.
“While we were not Team Ouallam, we were Team Ouallam's headquarters,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Preston, 768th EABS commander. “It was an emotional event, very personal and very involved for this community.”
According to Preston, the event was a wonderful display of partnership, brotherhood, and fraternity within the profession of arms across the participating nations.
“I’m proud of our Airmen, I’m proud of service members, the international community, and events like this…the opportunity to participate and lead in this environment is refreshing and a pretty great privilege,” said Preston.
A U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. serving Special Operations Command Africa as a Ground Surgical Team member led the coordination effort at Nigerien Air Base 101, as a liaison between the Air Force and Special Operations communities to ensure the intent of the challenge was met.
“What we decided was to keep it simple, but challenge people to sort of symbolize the challenges those four Soldiers faced. I wanted to put people in that mindset of challenge,” she said.
Along with the exercises, each station was marked with one of the names of Team Ouallam — Sgt. 1st Class Jeramiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, a somber reminder along the way.
“To the families and friends of the fallen — we haven’t forgotten and it’s an honor to serve,” Preston said.
U.S. Forces are in Niger to work by, with, and through Nigerien partners to promote stability and security while enabling them to address security threats. U.S. forces do this through a variety of security forces assistance programs, including training and equipping Nigerien counterterrorism forces. U.S. forces also do this by advising and assisting partner forces in conducting counterterrorism operations.