Support our mission
Sgt. Chris Berry of the Stuttgart, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group dons some of the local threads as he poses on top of a camel that was brought to the military camp in Tahoua, Niger.

Sgt. Chris Berry of the Stuttgart, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group dons some of the local threads as he poses on top of a camel that was brought to the military camp in Tahoua, Niger. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Sgt. Chris Berry of the Stuttgart, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group dons some of the local threads as he poses on top of a camel that was brought to the military camp in Tahoua, Niger.

Sgt. Chris Berry of the Stuttgart, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group dons some of the local threads as he poses on top of a camel that was brought to the military camp in Tahoua, Niger. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Air Force Maj. Stephen Hughes, the State Department’s Defense Attache in Niger.

Air Force Maj. Stephen Hughes, the State Department’s Defense Attache in Niger. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

A Green Beret from 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group tells Nigerien soldiers to concentrate on the target during rifle training June 18 in Tahoua, Niger, as part of the Flintlock ’05 exercise.

A Green Beret from 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group tells Nigerien soldiers to concentrate on the target during rifle training June 18 in Tahoua, Niger, as part of the Flintlock ’05 exercise. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Soldiers from the 10th and 20th Special Forces Groups receive gifts on June 22 during a reception at the Nigerien army headquarters in Tahoua, Niger.

Soldiers from the 10th and 20th Special Forces Groups receive gifts on June 22 during a reception at the Nigerien army headquarters in Tahoua, Niger. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Denise Mathieu, U.S. ambassador to Niger, says she expects further training of Nigerien soldiers.

Denise Mathieu, U.S. ambassador to Niger, says she expects further training of Nigerien soldiers. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

TAHOUA, Niger — One can’t simply leave a pallet of bullets on a runway, can one?

The U.S. military has restrictions on what aid it can give to nations such as Niger. Training foreign soldiers is OK. Giving their army bullets, though, is not.

“Supplying lethal [weaponry] is tightly governed by Congress,” said Maj. Stephen Hughes, the State Department’s Defense Attaché to Niger. So after Flintlock ’05 wraps up and U.S. soldiers leave northern Africa, the nations involved in the training — Algeria, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania — will have to find their own bullets.

The 170,000 rounds that Team Niger brought for training is more than the Nigerien troops would use in an entire year, according to Nigerien Lt. Col. Amadou Madougou Wonkoye.

So the U.S. military has to use other means to help stabilize the region, which is one of its goals in the war on terror. In a previous visit to Niger, the U.S. Marines gave four-wheel-drive trucks and radios to the Nigeriens to help them patrol the vast desert nation.

But when it comes to shooting bad guys, the Nigeriens are on their own.

Hughes said he was encouraged during his visit to a live-fire demonstration in Tahoua on June 21.

“The biggest surprise is how professional [the Nigerien] military is,” Hughes said. “A lot of times you don’t associate that with African militaries, but these guys are very competent, very professional.”

Denise Mathieu, the U.S. ambassador to Niger, said earning an alliance with nations such as Niger is important. Mathieu also traveled from the capital of Niamey to watch the live-fire demonstration, in which a company of Nigerien soldiers attacked an objective using live ammunition.

If conflict broke out in the region, Mathieu said she hoped to count on Niger’s support militarily, and also when it came time to cast votes at the United Nations.

“We like democracies and try to help them,” she said, noting Niger’s successful elections in 2004. “What will push us to do more militarily is if we see there is some kind of threat that we can help eradicate.”

Help from RomaniaIt helps to be able to speak French in a French-speaking nation.

The Alabama-based 20th Special Forces Group, whose soldiers are trained in Spanish, brought to Niger two Romanian soldiers who are fluent in both French and English. The Romanians, Capt. Bogdan Medintu and Staff Sgt. Mihai Bobosa, were valuable because they interpreted for both the Americans and Nigeriens during training.

Medintu said he was heartened by the warm reception he got from the locals.

“This was the first time we were exposed to the African environment,” Medintu said. “These people (Nigeriens) work so hard for a living, but are so warm and so friendly. They kept waving their hands to us.”

Graduation giftsMilitary training in Niger concluded on June 22 with a parade of soldiers in Tahoua and a reception for the Green Berets at the zone commander’s compound.

The parade featured Nigerien soldiers and speeches by local dignitaries.

At the reception, U.S. team members were given an etched letter opener with a bone handle inside a wooden box that was inscribed “Forces Armees Nigerennes.” They also received a wooden box which was framed with 21 silver crosses, representing the 21 regions of Niger.

The menu at the ceremony included roasted goat with couscous and soft drinks.

The Nigerien soldiers were awarded diplomas from the U.S. Defense Department at a later ceremony.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up