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Staff Sgt. Eric Gregory, left, and Spc. Brian Smith of the Landstuhl, Germany-based 160th Forward Surgical Team train Nigerien soldiers on how to apply field dressing to a wound on Friday.

Staff Sgt. Eric Gregory, left, and Spc. Brian Smith of the Landstuhl, Germany-based 160th Forward Surgical Team train Nigerien soldiers on how to apply field dressing to a wound on Friday. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

TAHOUA, Niger — A soldier quizzed his students: Why do we put dressing on an injury? What happens if we tie the dressing too tight?

Sometimes what students learn now is forgotten later.

“The next group who visits the area will come and see if this training has stuck,” said Dr. (Maj.) Imad Haque. “Based on what I’ve seen I’m very confident.”

Haque, a team leader with the 160th Forward Surgical Team, and other U.S. troops trained about 300 Nigerien soldiers Friday as part of Flintlock 05, a seven-nation exercise to train African troops and build U.S.-African rapport.

The Nigerien soldiers were confident. They’d already been trained by U.S. Marines and answered the questions that were posed.

Dressing is applied, one said, to prevent infection and stop bleeding. If the dressing is tied too tightly, another answered, blood would fail to reach the extremity (hand, foot) and tissue would die.

“We’ve been sent on a lot of missions outside our country, such as ECOWAS,” Nigerien Pvt. Idi Balla said through an interpreter, referring to the Economic Community of West African States’ peacekeeping mission in Liberia in the summer of 2003.

“I believe the ability of the Nigerien army is already high.”

“I will remember until my retirement the training I got from the Americans,” said Pvt. Momani Noury. “We will apply the training that we got. We have already applied it.”

Flintlock 05, which the U.S. European Command calls a Phase Zero operation, is an investment by the Stuttgart, Germany-based EUCOM. The goal is to make Niger and the other countries more stable and less susceptible to war.

Niger has seen turmoil. A military coup in 1996 was followed by flawed elections. Another coup in 1999 overthrew that government.

Soldiers from the 160th FST and the Stuttgart-based 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group conducted the training at a sprawling schoolyard in Tahoua. Classes were held on a lawn of brown dirt in the shade of leafy green trees. Nigerien troops were taught how to treat chest wounds, broken limbs, burns and bleeding.

To help the Nigeriens retain what they were taught, Haque said Nigerien medics were being identified to carry on the training after the Americans leave later this month.

Time would tell, he said, if the effort of the U.S. troops would pay off.

“The first time in battle is difficult for anybody,” Haque said. “I doubt they’ll be perfect, but they’ll be able to act and save buddies.”


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