U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to various companies from Task Force Iron Gray, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), and French Soldiers assigned to the 5th Overseas Interarms Regiment (5e RIAOM) participated in a joint combined arms live-fire exercise at the Djiboutian Range Complex, Djibouti, Aug. 11, 2021. The joint training exercise allowed both French and U.S. forces to work together to build regional cooperation and improve each nation’s fighting force and interoperability with one another.
Both the U.S. and French units supported the live fire with light-infantry dismounted troops, 120mm mortar systems and snipers. In addition to these assets, the 5e RIAOM utilized two AMX-10 RC reconnaissance vehicles, 81mm mortars and a French attack helicopter during the exercise. With the U.S. and French forces combined, the element was battalion-sized, making this combined arms live-fire exercise one of the largest conducted in Djibouti in almost a decade.
Staff Sgt. Casey Bennett, a squad leader with B Company, 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), said he did not let the language differences hold his team back from getting the most out of the training. “I learned how important communication really is especially when you’re working with multiple different assets from air to ground, and including different languages, making sure that you have people who can understand both languages on the radio, in order to ensure that the exercise still goes smoothly,” Bennett said.
“This training is honestly a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of these Soldiers. Task Force Iron Gray has had the honor to conduct the first live fire exercise with the 5e RIAOM in over 8 years. This training acts as a critical culminating exercise in which both forces can execute skills sets they’ve practiced and honed over the last year. Ultimately it’s important to build trust and interoperability with our French allies,” said Capt. Lee Lukas, commander, B Company, 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain).
The U.S. and French Soldiers who participated in the exercise were able to compare and contrast the different tactics and procedures each country uses, as well as build positive relationships and camaraderie with one another, despite the challenge of language barriers. Conducting joint live fire exercises is beneficial to building and strengthening relationships with international allies within CJTF-HOA’s area of interest. CJTF-HOA continues to work with regional partners to bolster their security against the extremist threats on the continent.
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) is a joint task force of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). It originated under Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA) as part of the United States response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. CJTF-HOA consists of about 2,000 servicemen and women from the United States military and allied countries. Currently, the task force has an assigned area of interest that includes Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Seychelles and Kenya. Outside this Combined Joint Operating Area, the CJTF-HOA has operations in Mauritius, Comoros, Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.