Marines teach nonlethal tactics to African counterparts

By WARREN PEACE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 31, 2009

STUTTGART, Germany — Sitting in a conference room on Tuesday, 12 representatives from African marine corps and naval services watch a video of young men being taught how to make their beds.

The teachers in the video — Marine Corps drill instructors — are full of aggression and shouting at the recruits.

It’s how the members of Marine Forces Africa chose to introduce themselves to their African counterparts.

Brig. Gen. Tracy Garrett, Marine Forces Africa commander, said it’s important for U.S. Marines and their African counterparts to know each other intimately because they could be operating side by side during future operations.

“There are not that many Marine forces in Africa,” Garrett said during the Marine Leaders of Africa Conference 2009. “As Marines, we need to seek out other marines and cultivate a relationship with them.”

Eleven African nations were represented at last week’s four-day conference, which consisted of presentations of the Marine Corps’ abilities and demonstrations of nonlethal weapons and tactics.

Many of the African leaders said the nonlethal weapons demonstration was the highlight of the event since they could foresee facing uprisings in their countries, not wars.

“Such events should be handled with minimal cost to life,” said Commodore Austin Oyagha, the Nigerian navy representative. “Sometimes you just want to disperse the crowd. We use something like the tear gas the U.S. Marines use, but there are a lot of things they are showing us today I would like to see us implement in the future.”

The Marine Corps’ 1st Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company from Rota, Spain, performed the demonstrations. Vendors gave the leaders a chance to get their hands on the weapons.

Nigeria and seven other African nations formed the Gulf of Guinea Commission three years ago to handle disputes in the region. Recently, the commission began talks to create a security force to handle the illegal drug trafficking and piracy attracted by the booming petroleum industry in the region.

Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of crude oil to the U.S., exporting about one-half million barrels a day, according to a report published on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Web site in May. Nations surrounding the gulf produce about 5 million barrels a day.

“We are increasingly working together on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea — one of the most critical and dangerous places because of the combination of rebel movements, drug traffickers, gun runners, and other criminal elements,” Voice of America quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying this month during a visit to Nigeria.

“We have a lot of coast, and we need the Marine Corps experience to help control it,” said Maj. Onana Mfege, the foreign affairs representative with the Cameroon air force.

Commodore Austin Oyagha, a representative of the Nigerian navy, gets instructions from Lance Cpl. Robert Barton on how to fire a 40 mm sponge grenade from a grenade launcher near Panzer Kaserne last week.

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