Friday, November 24, 2017

Cameroon’s Troops Learn About Counter-Bomb Operations

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Alexandra Hays U.S. Army Africa

DOUALA, Cameroon, Nov. 24, 2017 — With his uniform shirt soaked with sweat, Army Staff. Sgt. Joshua Crenshaw calmly halts the Cameroonian soldier in front of him.

“Stop, you’re dead,” Crenshaw said.

It’s 9 a.m. in Douala, and the humidity is pervasive. Crenshaw, an explosive ordnance disposal technician and team leader, is overseeing a practical exercise -- one in which the real-life applications can mean life or death.

Crenshaw is one of a handful of explosive ordnance disposal soldiers from the 764th Ordnance Company from Fort Carson, Colorado, who came to Cameroon at the request of U.S. Army Africa during Counter Improvised Explosive Device-Defeat Phase I training. The training, held Oct. 23-Nov. 17, was designed to help Cameroonian troops learn more about IEDs and how to dispose of them safely.

Terrorists’ Weapon

IEDs are a favorite weapon among terrorist organizations. Cameroon’s armed forces regularly deploy to northern Cameroon -- an area where the violent extremist organization Boko Haram operates. According to the United Nations, attacks by Boko Haram have displaced up to two million people in the countries of Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, and Niger, and have claimed the lives of up to 15,000 people since 2009.

Crenshaw and his team, many with experience countering IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, are deployed here providing potentially lifesaving training in the fight against violent extremism.

“We’re here passing on the knowledge that will hopefully save these guys’ lives,” Crenshaw said. “It will make them slow down; make them think about it before they just run into a situation.”

Crenshaw explained that the students in the course come from different military departments -- engineers, presidential guard, and the rapid response brigade -- and have had little to no IED-specific training in the past.

“We’re trying to help them get ahead of the game -- teach them how bad it could be, and teach safe methods now,” he said.

Different Types of IEDs

The American soldiers taught the Cameroonian troops the types of IEDs they might encounter, including vehicle-borne IEDs, suicide vests, IEDs buried in the ground, weapons caches and more.

“This training is relevant,” Crenshaw said. “When we start our training we usually ask what the threats are. Their leadership told us that the big threats they’re seeing are vehicle-borne IEDs and suicide vests.”

Crenshaw said it was rewarding to see the growth in the students from the first day of the four-week course to graduation.

‘The Training is Essential’

“This training is essential,” said Cameroonian Armed Forces Maj. Rene Didier Bekada, deputy commandant of the Cameroonian Armed Forces engineering school. “And it is really the heart of the struggle against groups who are waging asymmetric warfare [in Cameroon].”

Bekada said the training increased the Cameroonian soldier’s capacity.

“The U.S. instructors have vast experience … and so during this training we are really profiting from their experience in counter-IED,” he said.

Partnering Missions

Army 1st Lt. Jacob Schall, platoon leader for the 764th, said his team is one of many partnering with militaries in other West African nations and conducting similar training.

“We come here and we teach them the very basics of IED defeat … hopefully they can take that expertise and take it to wherever they are deployed to and help educate their fellow soldiers,” he said.

Schall said he also witnessed clear improvement in the Cameroonian troops’ counter-IED skills through the training.

“They have a firm grasp of being as safe as possible, which is the whole point here -- to increase your survivability and freedom of movement,” Schall said.

This is the first phase of the exercise in fiscal year 2018 -- the 764th team is scheduled to return to Cameroon in the spring to run two more cycles of the same exercise with new groups of Cameroonian soldiers.

“We’re very concerned about the long-term fight that they’re going to have,” said Crenshaw, explaining that IED threats become more complex as extremists gain experience.

“It means a lot to me personally,” Crenshaw said. “I’ve done the fight; I’ve done what they’re going to do. And I know how dangerous it is. I’ve been on both sides of the effects of it, so it means everything [to me].”

U.S., Chinese Troops Attend Disaster Management Exchange

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan H. Barbour U.S. Pacific Command

HONOLULU, Nov. 24, 2017 — The 13th annual U.S.-China Disaster Management Exchange and Practical Field Exchange portions commenced with an opening ceremony at Camp Rilea, Ore., Nov. 16.

Hosted by U.S. Army Pacific, the exchange allows hands-on and side-by-side interaction between the U.S. Army and the People's Liberation Army on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and enables sharing of lessons learned.

Flooding Scenario

The 2017 exchange focuses on a flooding scenario in which both armies will be requested to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to a third affected state as part of a Multinational Coordination Center.

Army Maj. Gen. Susan A. Davidson, commanding general of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, welcomed attendees and highlighted how the event builds understanding and trust between the two armies.

"Disaster management exchanges like this are invaluable because as they expand in depth with each iteration. They allow us to truly recognize the importance of collaboration in addressing nontraditional security threats such as natural disasters," Davidson said. "Our ability to increase our practical deconfliction, and gain a better understanding of each other's procedures in the event of a real-world disaster response could be what makes all the difference to the affected state."

Throughout the exchange personnel simulate real-life scenarios to identify procedural gaps and practice techniques required for efficient and collaborative response, such as search and rescue techniques and the construct of the MNCC.

‘The Respect for Human Life is Beyond National Boundaries, Races’

"The PLA and U.S. military both have dignified histories of and glorious accomplishments. Although we are geographically far from each other, the respect for human life is beyond national boundaries and races," said Maj. Gen. Huang Taoyi, deputy commander of the

Starting in 2005, the exchange has been held at locations in Hawaii, Washington, D.C., New York, Washington state and multiple areas in China. The exchange has also matured from basic visits and briefings into a substantive exchange that uses table top and practical field exchanges to focus and facilitate interaction and develop the capacity to deconflict HA/DR operations between the U.S. Army and the PLA.

In addition to providing a learning opportunity for the U.S. and PLA participants, this year the exchange includes military and government observers from Bangladesh, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and China.

U.S. participants include U.S. Army Pacific, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, the Oregon National Guard, the U.S. Military Academy, the 351st Civil Affairs Command, the 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, the 571st Sapper Company, the U.S Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern Division, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Pacific Disaster Center, an applied research center managed by the University of Hawaii.

Face of Defense: Soldier Helps Others in Hurricane Maria’s Aftermath

By Army Spc. Samuel Keenan, 65th Press Camp Headquarters

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Nov. 24, 2017 — Army Pfc. Roberto Rivera was in his bedroom when Hurricane Maria moved into the municipality of Naguabo, Puerto Rico.

“I was at home, trying to sleep,” the 20-year-old Rivera said. “Then, I heard a loud boom. When I got up and looked, all the windows in the house were starting to explode.”

The pressure of the storm had shattered the glass and flung all of the doors of the house off their hinges, he said.

Hurricane Maria ‘Destroyed Everything’

“The wind blew all of the rain inside the house and destroyed everything,” Rivera said.

Rivera and his father rushed his mom, sister and dog into the only room in the house that was not damaged. They all took shelter there until the storm passed.

When the rain and wind finally stopped, Rivera did not have any time to process what had just happened. As a military police officer with the 480th Military Police Company in the Puerto Rico Army National Guard, his neighbors desperately needed him.

“As soon as the hurricane was over, I came in,” Rivera said.

One of Rivera’s first missions in the aftermath of Maria was the rescue operations at Levittown, where floodwaters trapped local residents.

The water had risen so high that only heavy duty military vehicles could pass through, said Army Sgt. Milton Serrano, Rivera’s supervisor.

Rescuing Others

Rivera and others from his unit rescued over 300 residents from the dangerous situation.

“I just believe people need more help than I do,” Rivera said. “A lot of people need our help and I joined to serve.”

Since Hurricane Maria, Rivera has become part of the Governor’s Package, a unit of twenty soldiers that are under the direction of Army Brig. Gen. Jose Reyes, the adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard, and Gov. Ricardo Rossell√≥, governor of Puerto Rico.

“We have been doing almost everything,” said 1st Lt. William Godalupe, commanding officer of the 480th MP Company and the officer in charge of the Governor’s Package.

Post-Hurricane Relief Missions

The soldiers have been running convoy operations as well as other various tasks as directed for the last 52 days since the storm, Godalupe said.

Rivera is enjoying his time with the unit, and actually sees serving as a way of escape.

“[My unit] is like a family to me,” Rivera said. “They’re always joking around. It’s a way to relieve the mind.”

Rivera plans to stay on active duty until the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico are complete and is trying to financially support the rebuilding of his family home.

Once the work on his house is finished Rivera wants to go to the mainland United States and earn a degree in criminal justice to become a Customs and Border Protection agent.

“He’s committed to the Army, to the citizens and lives the Army values 200 percent,” said Godalupe about Rivera. “It’s a privilege to lead that kind of soldier.”