DAKAR, Senegal — Like many developing countries, Senegal suffers from a lack of modern infrastructure that makes travel by road lengthy and treacherous.

Many people live too far from health care facilities to safely travel by vehicle to see a doctor, so the country’s air force steps in to help shuttle people where they need to go.

Every Thursday one of the Senegalese air force’s Focker 27 airplanes departs the capital for the 11 largest cities in the country to transport people for health care as well as business and agriculture appointments.

“We use the air force to make Senegal one country,” said Capt. Al Housseyny Ly.

Watching crops, wildlife

The Senegalese air force also takes on missions that would be undertaken by domestic law enforcement and environmental agencies in the United States.

It has a single-engine, Cessna-style plane for crop dusting and insect eradication and another aircraft to patrol the skies over the country’s national parks, which are home to elephants that are poached for their tusks and skin.

“We don’t have very many (elephants) left,” Ly said. “That is why we have to protect them; otherwise, they are going to disappear.”

Emphasis on language skills

The U.S. military has put increased emphasis on language skills for its troops as they deploy to locations around the globe. But they could still take a page from the Senegalese playbook.

Most Senegalese officers speak three languages and often use them all in the course of a mission.

“We speak Wolof to our troops, French when we make our plans and organize, and English when we fly,” Ly said.

Ly speaks all three principal languages, plus Russian and Arabic.

“My Arabic is even better than my English,” he said.

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