‘Small footprint, high payoff’: US Marine team trains Ugandan forces to face al-Shabaab, LRA
Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12, the Marines’ Sicily-based parent command, is tasked with sending small training groups into Africa to partner with local militaries in an effort to indirectly blunt the spread of extremist groups across the continent.
The Uganda team of force reconnaissance, infantry, and combat engineering Marines first covered the use of a variety of weapons systems, marksmanship and field medicine, common soldiering skills Ugandan leaders say their men can use against the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army. More specialized follow on training began March 5 and is designed to help the Ugandan field engineers counter al-Shabaab insurgency tactics in Somalia, where urban obstacles and IEDs reminiscent of the war in Iraq are common.
“We are answering a stated need by our African partners,” said Lt. Col. David L. Morgan, commander of SPMAGTF-12 and 4th Force Reconnaissance Company. “Our mission in Uganda is yet another example of what this versatile force can do.”
The task force has dispatched teams across a wide swath of Africa over the course of their six month deployment in support of Marine Forces Africa, sending anywhere from five to 50 Marines into partner nations for days to months at a time. The unit is among the first of its kind and the mission in Uganda is one of its last.
From al-Shabaab to the LRA
“The soldiers on training will use the acquired knowledge in war-torn Somalia and in the hunt down of fugitive LRA commander Joseph Kony wherever he is,” said Ugandan People’s Defense Force Lt. Col. Richard C. Wakayinja, a senior officer in the field engineering unit training with the Marines.
The UPDF is simultaneously providing the bulk of the more than 9,000 African Union peacekeepers engaging al-Shabab in Somalia while also staying on the hunt for Kony and his militia as they skirt the dense wilderness of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
Their membership estimated to be in the hundreds, the cultist LRA is condemned by international human rights groups for a lengthy list of atrocities that includes mutilating living victims and forcing children into their ranks as either soldiers or sex slaves. The Obama administration ordered 100 combat advisers into central Africa last fall to aid in the hunt for their elusive Ugandan leader.
Al-Shabaab, which officially became a part of al-Qaida’s terrorist network in February, claims responsibility for the 2010 twin bombings in Kampala that killed 74 as they watched a World Cup final on television. The group also banned foreign aid agencies from Somalia as drought and famine ravaged the region last year.
Mogadishu-specific segments of training are scheduled to go over common combat engineering skills used to harden occupied urban spaces against complex attacks involving dangers like sniper and rocket fire as well as how to blast through enemy obstacles and difficult terrain. Another major focus will be on how to find IEDs before friendly forces get too close, said US Marine Maj. Charles Baker, the mission officer in charg