Night Stalkers add helicopters for training with Malians, Senegalese

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http://news.soc.mil/releases/News Archive/2010/June/100602-02.html

BAMAKO, Mali (USASOC News Service, June 2, 2010) – Chinook helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) added an aerial dimension to Exercise Flintlock 10 in Northern and Western Africa during the month of May.

The special operations forces exercise, conducted by Special Operations Command Africa with participation of key European nations, focused on military interoperability and capacity-building with partner nations throughout the Trans-Saharan region of Africa.

“This was the first time Night Stalkers have participated in Exercise Flintlock,” said the senior unit officer on-site. “Our Soldiers had the opportunity to work with military special operations forces from Africa, Europe and the United States, fly and work in an unfamiliar environment and experience the local culture.”

The Night Stalker mission was unique in Flintlock 10 because the crews supported training events in multiple cities with a variety of special operations Soldiers from host and partner nations.

Unlike their ground force counterparts who spent weeks with specific groups of soldiers, helicopter support lasted only a few days in each location. But the addition of rotary wing support for any period of time provided a rare opportunity for Malian and Senegalese special operations soldiers to incorporate helicopter operations in their training.

“The feedback we received about incorporating the helicopters into training at each location was extremely positive from host and partner nation personnel,” the officer said. “You could see the host nation soldiers’ confidence level increase and techniques adapt as they spent more time in and around the aircraft.”

Senegal Special Forces soldiers conducted fast rope and ground assault operations out of the Chinook helicopters In Thies, Senegal. Marines from the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command incorporated the helicopters into ongoing training with the Senegalese soldiers.

This was the first time the Senegal soldiers had conducted fast rope insertion techniques from a helicopter.

Malian special operations soldiers working with U.S. Special Forces in Bamako, Mali, practiced fast rope, ground assault and vertical extraction (SPIES) techniques from the aircraft.

For the majority of Night Stalkers, this was the first time they had worked with host nations military personnel.

“It was a great learning experience working with the soldiers from Mali and Senegal,” said one of the crew members. “Working with our special operations ground forces at each location, we overcome language barriers to work together and learn from one another.”

Approximately 1,200 European, African Partner Nation and U.S. personnel from 14 nations were involved in this year’s event.

The senior Night Stalker said the unit is looking forward to opportunities to work alongside our sister nations in the future.

Editor’s note: Identities of the SOF soldiers interviewed for this story are withheld for security purposes.
 
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