Exercise Flintlock is an annual regional exercise among African, Western, and US counterterrorism forces. It began as a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET)-like program conducted by US European Command (EUCOM). In 2005, what had become a formalized annual exercise program became paired with what was initially known as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI). In addition, the US military initiated Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara, the US Department of Defense contribution to the TSCTI. Joint Special Operations Task Force - Trans Sahara subsequently became the lead entity responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing Exercise Flintlock. In 2008, a unified command for the majority of Africa was established as US Africa Command (AFRICOM). AFRICOM subsequently took over responsibilities previously held by EUCOM relating to the area of operations, including Exercise Flintlock, Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara, and what was retitled as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). Flintlock remained an important element of the TSCTP throughout these transitions.
The Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program was specifically designed to support US Special Forces training requirements in overseas environments. Although JCET exercises first had to satisfy Special Forces mission essential task list requirements, the exercise was also intended to be a training opportunity for the host nation. JCETs could include NCO development, light infantry training, peacekeeping operations, medical operations, human rights training, humanitarian relief operations, airborne operations or leadership training in varying amounts-again based on the needs of the Special Forces and the host nation. EUCOM, US Central Command (CENTCOM), and US Pacific Command (PACOM) conducted JCETs in Africa with forces from either the 1st, 3rd, or 5th Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The Department of Defense paid for JCET training events.
In an effort to enhance sub-regional cooperation and expose Special Forces to a variety of African military experiences, the 5th Special Forces Group combined JCET events within an African sub-region along a common scenario. These events, subsequently referred to by the codename "Flintlock", were conducted by EUCOM twice annually. The exercise scenarios could include JCET-type events or other operations, such as disaster management, search and rescue, multi-purpose range construction or combat lifesaver courses. Flintlock events, like JCETs, had to first satisfy US special operations forces training requirements and use Department of Defense funds to conduct the training event. EUCOM and Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) determined FLINTLOCK locations.
The "lean years" of the 1970's had seen an absolute decrease in the number/frequency of operational deployments for 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). In fact they all but ceased completely. During this time, however, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) maintained its training edge through continuous deployments into the European theater to train with NATO allies, and to do unilateral training on environmental skills. These deployments and Exercise Flintlock became the central points of every Operational Detachment Alpha's training program. Of course, those events were complimented by language training, as well as environmental training that was possible in and around Fort Devens, Massachusetts, then the home of the bulk of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the US Army Intelligence School.
The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) participated in 1st Special Operations Command's EDRE/ARTEP evaluation Exercise Casino Gambit 1-88 and JCRX Flintlock 88. These exercises constituted extreme challenges for the entire Group and provided true tests of overall combat readiness. The Summer of 1988 found the Group in an intensive individual and collective training posture highlighted by JCET participation in Belgium, Denmark, West Germany and Italy.
Between March and April 1999, Naval Regional Contracting Detachment Naples (NRCD Naples) deployed contingency contracting officers in support of Exercise Flintlock IIA in Cote d'Ivoire. This exercise, conducted by the US Army's 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, included road, cafeteria, and latrine construction projects, well-drilling requirements, and numerous inoculations for various tropical diseases. Naval Regional Contracting Center contracting officers awarded contracts for these projects valued at $63,000.
In June 2001, NRCC Naples deployed a contingency contracting officer to Mali in support of Exercise Flintlock 01. As in 1999, the US Army's 96th Civil Affairs Battalion coordinated and executed the exercise. Projects for the exercise included renovation and construction of maternity clinics, purchase of school and medical supplies, and the procurement and installation of water well pumps. Total value of the contracts for these projects was $80,000.
The Republic of South Africa hosted a Flintlock exercise between June and August 2003. The combined US and South African National Defense Force delegation agreed that a planning conference would be held at least 12 months prior to the exercise date. Additional details with regard to US exercise's scope and objectives included: a bilateral exercise between US and South African National Defense Force personnel; an exercise that would involve full scope of special operations forces and capabilities; a special operations forces mission focus with airborne assault operations; the involvement of 2-3 companies of US special operations forces (to include several companies from the US Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and a US Navy SEAL Team; and special operations forces capable C-130s and helicopters.
Exercise Flintlock 2005, which ran from 6 to 26 June 2005, was a series of military exercises conducted with US theater security cooperation partners in Africa. European and the NATO partner nations also participated, either directly or in an advisory role. The principal purpose of the training exercise was to ensure all nations continued developing their partnerships; further enhance their capabilities to halt the flow of illicit weapons, goods and human trafficking in the region; and prevent terrorists from establishing sanctuary in remote areas. This exercise also helped participating nations to plan and execute command, control and communications systems in support of future combined humanitarian, peacekeeping, and disaster relief operations. US trainers tested African units on airborne operations, and also worked with African soldiers on such basics as small-unit tactics, marksmanship, land navigation, and combat medic skills. American forces participating also stressed human-rights training. A 4-day command-post exercise capped 2 weeks of field training in five West African countries
Flintlock 05 was billed as one of the largest deployments of US forces in northern Africa since World War Two, with more than 1,000 US troops sent to West Africa for counter-terrorism training. US Special Forces soldiers, civil affairs personnel, and Air Force Special Operations personnel were the main players in the exercise. Medical personnel from Landstuhl, Germany, were also participating in a medical/dental outreach to the people of the region. The training took place in several countries: Algeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad. Participants practiced a wide variety of skills to include airborne operations, small-unit tactics, security operations, land navigation, marksmanship, medical skills, human rights training and land warfare. Flintlock 05 supported future training and engagement in Africa's Trans-Saharan Region and the 2005 was the first item it was paired with the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative, a follow-on to the Pan Sahel Initiative which had ended in 2004. EUCOM, the command then responsible for advancing US interests throughout Europe and much of Africa, had begun planning the exercise in early 2004. The Exercise took advantage of access agreements with several countries, including Ghana and Senegal, for the use of military facilities, such as ports and airfields, when needed. Those agreements had been previously activated only for rescue missions.
In October 2008, it was announced that the Government of Mali, in collaboration with other African and European nations and the United States, would host a joint military exercise in Bamako, Mali from 3 to 20 November 2008. This exercise, called Flintlock 2009, was the latest in a series of exercises conducted between Malian and US military forces and partner nations throughout Africa. Flintlock 09 was also to additionally feature the presence of American military aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules and the CV-22 Osprey, an airplane that flies both like an airplane and a helicopter, that were slated to be part of the exercise. General William Ward had confirmed the intent to deploy the CV-22 in support of the exercise. Exercise Flintlock 09 subsequently brought together 14 countries desiring to achieve the common goal of increasing the capacity of African nations to better manage the safety and security of their perspective countries. The exercise did not initially include an Imam or subject-matter expert on Islam, but an Army Captain subsequently volunteered to lead religious services for interested individuals and otherwise act as a religious minority group lay-leader.
Exercise Flintlock 09 saw the first operational deployment of the US Air Force's CV-22 Osprey aircraft. Four CV-22 Ospreys from the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hulburt Field, Florida deployed to Mali to support the Exercise. Members of the 1st Special Operations Helicopter Maintenance Squadron deployed to Bamako in support of the 8th Special Operations Squadron. The exercise was held at a remote location rather than an established base, creating a significant maintenance challenge, as the unit was required to self-deploy with all the parts and equipment they needed to keep the CV-22s operational for the entire exercise, and for the cumulative 10,000 nautical mile trans-Atlantic flights.
Exercise Flintlock 2010 was a US Africa Command-sponsored exercise conducted by the Special Operations Command Africa's Joint Special Operations Task Force - Trans Sahara, which ran from 2 May 2010 until 23 May 2010. Centered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the Exercise focused on military interoperability and capacity-building and involved tactical training conducted in Senegal, Mali, Mauritania and Nigeria. Approximately 1,200 European, African Partner Nation, and US participants from 14 nations were involved in military interoperability activities across the Trans-Saharan region during this event, making airlift a priority. Flintlock 10 would include several joint medical operations throughout Mali, with US Medical and Veterinary Civic Action programs to be conducted to provide the populations in rural areas health information and basic medical care.
A detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 had deployed in April 2010 in support of the upcoming Exercise Flintlock 10 to support various operational units during the exercise. The unit's main project consisted of upgrading an existing Joint Command Center that was utilized during the exercise. Personnel assigned to Detachment Burkina Faso, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 worked hand-in-hand with the Peoples Army of Burkina Faso and both parties gained invaluable experiences, in the mist of a distinctive language barrier. Construction electricians successfully completed the installation of 127 interior and exterior fluorescent lights, 65 ceiling fans, 63 receptacles, 23 air conditioners, 5 electrical panels, ran 3,500 meters of electrical cable and 300 meters of fiber optic cable, connecting power to 4 buildings on site. The Detachment, assisted by members of the Burkina Army, also successfully completed the construction of 156 linear feet of partition walls, poured 22 yards of concrete, repaired and replaced 100 ceiling tiles and painted 145,000 square feet of interior walls, as well as cosmetic features on exterior walls.
Seventeenth Air Force / Air Forces Africa officials provided coordination and tasked Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing for the airlift and movement of participants and cargo during Exercise Flintlock 10. The 86th Air Wing provided 2 C-130J aircraft and crews to support the Exercise. Participation in the Flintlock 10 marked the first deployment for EUCOM's C-130Js.
On 11 May 2010, Malian and Senegalese soldiers worked on small unit tactics, movements, and convoy vehicle recover drills with special operations forces personnel from Special Operations Task Force 103 in Bamako, Mali. The classes were part of Flintlock 10, an exercise focused on military interoperability and capacity-building, which was part of an AFRICOM-sponsored annual exercise program with partner nations in northern and western Africa. Flintlock 10, which includes participation of key European nations, was conducted by SOCAFRICA and was designed to build relationships and develop capacity among security forces throughout the Trans-Saharan region of Africa.
Exercise Flintlock 2011, which ran from 21 February until 11 March 2011, was conducted by Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara and was focused on military interoperability and capacity-building for US, Canadian, European partner nations and select units in northern and western Africa. Approximately 800 personnel were involved in Flintlock 11, including participants from the US, Canada, Spain, France, The Netherlands and Germany, as well as from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal. Flintlock 11 built upon previous exercise training engagements, establishing, and developing cooperative relationships among the military institutions of TSCTP nations by strengthening security institutions, promoting multilateral sharing of information, and facilitating informal network building. Flintlock also accomplished the AFRICOM objectives to build civil-military partnerships as well as interagency and regional cooperation in the Trans-Sahara region.
During the exercise a Multi-National Tactical Operations Center was to be established to serve as a focal point for multinational information sharing and the planning of synchronized operations. The tactical portion of Flintlock 11 would consist of small-unit combined training and activities involving Partner Nation counter-terrorism units. During the exercise, Medical and Veterinary Civic Action Programs would be conducted to provide the populations in rural areas health information and medical care.
During Exercise Flintlock 11, AFRICOM expanded its traditional approach to addressing irregular security challenges across the Trans-Sahara region of West and North Africa by incorporating engagements for the first time into Exercise Flintlock 11 that go beyond the normal tactical and operational training. AFRICOM's Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara conducted two strategic-level working engagements from 22 February to 4 March 2011 in Dakar, supported by the Trans-Sahara Security Symposium. The events brought together more than 70 operational-level military members, civilian ministry and national agency members, and guests and observers from Exercise Flintlock and Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership participating countries for a Counterterrorism Engagement and Senior Leader Symposium.
Exercise Flintlock 2012 had been planned to take place in Mali, but was canceled following a disruption in military-to-military collaboration between the US and the country following a military coup there in March 2012.
Mauritania, bordered by Western Sahara, Algeria, Senegal and Mali, hosted Exercise Flintlock 2013, an annual capacity-building exercise between 20 February and 9 March 2013. The exercise was held across southeast Mauritania in Kiffa, Nema and Ayoun. More than 1,000 participants from 14 African and Western partner nations contributed in varying levels to the exercise. The Spanish military contributed trainers who worked with Mauritanian units, teaching them tactics, medical techniques, patrolling and the use of air drops for resupply, while Dutch trainers worked with the Senegalese units.
One of the biggest developments between Flintlock 2013 and previous Flintlocks was the successful integration of an African-led Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSTOF), a command and control element that integrated operations, logistics, intelligence, information operations and civil affairs into the tactical training scenario. The CJSOTF operations center was staffed by senior officers from the Mauritanian staff college, who would receive exercise information, develop plans and then deliver the plans to the appropriate subordinate unit for execution.
Flintlock 2013 was also unique in its proximity to Mali and the involvement of western African nations in the conflict there, many of which were participating in the exercise. Previous Flintlock participants were also actively engaged in operations in Mali. However, the exercise was not specifically designed to prepare forces for that situation. Given the regional instability, Mauritania could have justified canceling the exercise, but they insisted on hosting the exercise despite numerous demands on their security forces.
Flintlock 2013 also put a strong focus on building the Civil Military Action capacity of the host nation, through the use of medical seminars and holding medical capability (MEDCAP) events throughout the region to allow the Mauritanian officials to provide medical aid to the local population. Teams from the US Army's 91st Civil Affairs Battalion and the Mauritanian military carried out the MEDCAPs in locations throughout Mauritania, chosen because of the need for and lack of permanent government support. The MEDCAPs administered medical care to over 1,000 people, distributing nearly a half-ton of medical supplies, including eyeglasses.
Flintlock 2013 culminated in a live fire exercise in Nema, simulating a raid on a high value target in which multiple African partner nations worked together to ensure a successful mission. The event was a culmination using many of the skills trained during the exercise, from intelligence analysis to planning to tactical execution.
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