understands that we may only be there for six-eight
weeks, but there’ll be another Special Forces team following us, and then we’ll be back. It’s a building-block
Since these teams represented the first deployments,
the initial building block often centered around some
pretty basic things, which often had the biggest impact.
Tired of meals ready to eat (MREs), the corpsman’s
team would venture into the local village periodically
to buy fresh meat, bread or soda at the open-air market. He said the locals seemed to appreciate that the
Marines would buy what they bought and eat what
“It made a big impact,” he said.
A team leader, who deployed on another African
mission, had a similar experience.
“We were located in a fairly substantive city for the
majority of the deployment, but during the field exercise we were far enough away from the city that we
were getting to interact more out there,” he said. “We
did get to know a lot of the locals … and ended buying a bunch of goats from them, buying fresh fruits
from them and everything else. And that had a positive
Soccer, too, proved valuable in creating a bond
between Marines and the locals.
“We brought six soccer balls with us, and we wore
out every one of them,” the corpsman said. “We also
taught them how to play horseshoes.”
Sharing meals, even if most consisted of goat, also
served to strengthen the ties between Marines and the
local forces. One team member emphasized that no
parts of the goat is wasted, making for some interesting culinary experiences, such as goat lungs.
Days for both teams were long and hot. Training
usually started at 5 or 6 a.m. with a “little physical
training” followed by blocks of classes, a break for
lunch and then more training. The corpsman said he
spent most of his deployment in an abandoned building with no running water and electricity provided by
generators, while the team leader’s team did have some
running water at the base camp but stayed in mud huts
out in the field.
Part of the corpsman’s job was to provide medical
care for some locals, usually during organized Medical
Civil Affairs Programs. But when villagers found out
there were medical personnel attached to the team,
they would often ask for impromptu assistance.
The hardest part of the deployment for the Marines
— apart from eating goat morning, noon and night —
was feeling like they had to be sharp and focused all of
“You had to be on-game 100 percent of the time
because you wake up, and you’re eating breakfast with
U.S. MARINE CORPS
A Foreign Military Training Unit (FMTU) Marine speaks with
local African forces during a military training session. A
goal of the FMTU program is to bolster local forces to
counter incipient terrorist threats and avoid major conflicts, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
them, you’re eating lunch with them, and you eat dinner with them,” said the team leader. “You have to just
be careful with everything you say or do and make sure
that you’re within their cultural norms. You’re just trying to project the perfect image and it’s … I don’t want
to say it’s a struggle, but it was mentally tiring to
always be focused like that.”
Working as a completely independent team was also
a challenge for team members.
“The team basically had to take care of itself,” said
the team leader. “You don’t call higher up and tell them
you need more MREs. You’ve got to solve the problem
The locals appreciated the effort. According to both
FMTU members the locals’ eagerness was contagious.
“You’re sleeping in a mud hut if you’re lucky, and
exposed to weather and all that, but because what you
were doing was being well received, you were glad to
be there and be doing what you were doing because it
was important,” said the corpsman. “And they were
treating it like it was important.” ■