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African Officers Graduate from 12-Week Intelligence Course

US Marine Corps News

By U.S. Marine Sgt. Lydia M. Davey, Marine Forces Africa

Twenty-three officers from nine African nations, along with one U.S. officer, graduated from a 12-week introductory intelligence course at the Gendarmerie Academy here in December. The course was focused on equipping junior officers with the basic skills to operate a battalion-level military intelligence staff.

The Military Intelligence Basic Officer Course – Africa (MIBOC-A), which provides training on the basic intelligence cycle, analytic processes, functional staff integration, and how to share information in a multinational environment, was sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and supported by U.S. Marine Forces Africa (MARFORAF). The class is designed to foster collaboration methods among the nations of the region’s military intelligence community, and is the fourth of its kind to be held on the African continent, according to U.S. Marine Corps LtCol Jon Hetland, liaison officer and officer in charge of MIBOC-A IV for U.S. Africa Command. The first two courses were held in Mali and the third was held in Nigeria.

The opportunity to attend MIBOC-A held a special significance for one of the students.

“We are building our Army after 14 years of civil war,” said the Liberian Officer. “I am the first infantry officer sent abroad for this training. I came (here) with little training, but high expectations and I am very, very pleased with it.”

He said his expectations were more than met.

“We had brilliant instructors who took their time to tailor the learning to us,” he said. “I hope a lot of guys back (in Liberia) will have the chance to come to this course.”

Three instructors from the Regional Joint Intelligence Training Facility (RJITF), located at Royal Air Force Base Molesworth, England, conducted the entire course in English and French. They translated course material, questions and dialogue as they taught, and used dual projectors to present scenarios in English and French, according to Tracy Colley, RJITF’s lead MIBOC-A instructor.

Further, they tailored the pace of teaching by implementing stop points throughout each day to ensure the group was on track, Colley added.

Much of the MIBOC-A material is pulled from intelligence training courses used by the U.S. Army, according to Colley. However, the material has been altered to meet the specific demands of an African audience. Three years ago, said Colley, she spent six months with a team involved in research and intensive curriculum development for MIBOC-A. The resulting product was a hybrid of U.S. military intelligence community concepts, and awareness of the diverse needs of an audience that would come from varied levels of education, training and language backgrounds.

“When you’re training your own forces, you take a lot for granted as far as shared systems and concepts go,” Colley said. “When you’re training partner nation forces, you can’t take any of that for granted because the way they’ve learned is so completely different. I think you would have the need for these added stop points with any international audience.” Additionally, although some students came from an intelligence background, many were new to the field. Students came from occupational specialties as varied as aviation, signals and field artillery.

Therefore, major differences existed among the students in writing ability and computer skills. However, during the first three weeks, instructors provided after-hours and weekend training for the few who needed it. The extra study resulted in a group of students who graduated with a comparable knowledge base and similar skill sets.

“They’re highly motivated to learn,” said Colley. “It’s impressive. If they’re into a practical exercise, they won’t go to lunch. We have to literally force them to leave their table and go to lunch. Our partner nations do send their best officers, and it’s obvious by the way they carry themselves.”

Hetland agreed.

“I have been extremely impressed with the students,” he said. “Their commonalities of enthusiasm, professionalism, and eagerness to learn eclipse their national, religious and cultural differences.”

The RJITF instructors were joined by three guest instructors from three different partner nations; Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. Their addition to the team is indicative of plans to eventually have a course primarily taught by former students from African nations.

“We would still like a role in it, because we’re part of the partnership,” said Colley. “However, the goal is for them to become the trainers as time goes on.”

The 12 weeks of training were divided into two phases. The first phase was an introduction to intelligence, and covered conventional intelligence concepts ranging from analysis of terrain, weather and population, to counter-terrorism operations. The second phase provided the advanced skills needed to achieve regional stability, and provide support to peacekeeping operations, Colley noted.

The second phase of training was especially valued by a Senegalese student, who stated that as a soldier, he could be deployed in peacekeeping operations at any time.

“The training provided practical tools for daily operations,” he said. “Each time I learned something, I tried to adapt it to a situation I might encounter in an operational environment here.”

Additionally, said the Senegalese student, he appreciated the networking opportunities that come from such international training.

“We made new friendships, and were reacquainted with old friends,” he said. “I’m very proud to participate, and very satisfied with the training.”

In a twist on traditional training exercises, U.S. Africa Command sent an American officer through the course as a student.

From the perspective of Col. Mario Lapaix, Chief of Staff for MARFORAF, the move to allow U.S. student participation was an excellent one. During an informal meeting before graduation, Lapaix spoke to the students, and noted the importance for U.S. Africa Command to have an American officer attend the course as a fellow student.

“We believe in the training, the mission and the goals of the MIBOC-A program,” he said. “We are not simply facilitating or providing training to our African partners; we are investing in the partnership completely, and demonstrating how much we value the training. Without a doubt, the American student learned how to be an intelligence professional during this course. However, he also learned a great deal more—specifically, the cultural knowledge, experience and friendships he gained from participating in the MIBOC-A will serve him, the Navy and U.S. Africa Command for years to come.”

The American student said he welcomed the opportunity to attend the course, and to continue the focus of developing international relationships.

“This is my first time in Africa,” he said. “And it’s an unbelievable first experience. It’s highly evident that we have learned the fundamentals of intelligence, and that we now have a strong foundation we can build upon.”

He appreciated the opportunities afforded the class to socialize outside of the classroom, and referenced a visit to historic Gorée Island as one of his most memorable experiences. Gorée Island, a former slave transit point and colonial outpost, is listed as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The outing was one of several cultural events arranged by Hetland. Others included regular sporting matches, dinners and a day safari.

Students credit such casual outings with the development of important friendships.

“I met a lot of good friends here,” oneMauritanian student said. “I know we’re going to keep in touch as we move forward in our careers.”

According to Hetland, the course supports the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership Program, a U.S. State Department-led initiative developed to build regional capacity, promote interoperability and strengthen inter-regional cooperation in the trans-Sahara region.

“These intelligence officers, African and American alike, share tremendous responsibilities and challenges in developing the intelligence picture for their commanders,” said Lapaix. “Now, they are equipped with the proper tools to reduce the commanders’ uncertainty and protect their forces. And, they are not alone; they can rely on each other for support, collaboration, cooperation and information. Bottom line—the MIBOC-A has forged lasting friendships that will bind these officers together throughout the remainder of their careers. It’s a relationship that will not be severed by distance or time; it’s a relationship that through the TSCTP will continue to grow and develop.”

Terrance Ford, Director of U.S. Africa Command’s Intelligence and Knowledge Directorate, spoke to the students during their graduation ceremony.

“The underlying intent of this course is to enhance our capacity for intelligence by better understanding analysis and intelligence tradecraft,” Ford said. “By doing so, we can further our understanding of the common security challenges that contribute to an environment that builds relationships and improves cooperation. As such, this course is a key part of our combined efforts to enhance security and stability throughout the region.”

According to Ford, the course provided an invaluable opportunity for the U.S. and African partner nation militaries to learn from each other.

“While the United States and Senegal provided much of the support and facilities for MIBOC-A , the U.S., like all militaries, learns a great deal from partner nations when we sit and listen to your ideas, your experiences and your concerns,” said Ford to the students. “Without the wisdom afforded by you, it would have been just another military course. Instead, it’s been a wonderful success because of the open dialogue that has been going on here over the last 12 weeks. And this is just the beginning. MIBOC-A will set a strong precedent for future engagements in which the U.S. military will actively partner with African partners to meet the security challenges that are important to all of us.”

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