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NEWS | Dec. 21, 2021

Vermont Army Guard hosts mountain warfare course in Djibouti

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Stock, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – Five U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School instructors with the Vermont Army National Guard traveled to Djibouti to teach a five-day Joint Expeditionary Mountain Warfare Course to service members from France’s 5th Overseas Interarms Regiment (5e RIAOM) at the Arta Range Complex Dec. 12-16.

The course consisted of knot tying, rope management, rappelling, fixed rope techniques, hauling systems, ascension techniques, lowering systems, basic mountain casualty evacuation, and portable stretcher training. Students who successfully completed the course received the prestigious Ram’s Head device during a graduation ceremony.

“Any time we can have information-sharing and collaboration, it’s beneficial for us as well as our partner forces,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Dearborn, an instructor at the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School. “Even the experienced service members were able to take something away from this course.”

Mountain-qualified Soldiers from the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), Task Force Iron Gray, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), assisted Vermont’s instructors with the course. The 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain) is a unit within the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), the only active mountain brigade in the U.S. Army. The 86th IBCT (Mountain) and the Army Mountain Warfare School are based in Vermont.

“Our task force is honored to host this joint training event and further demonstrate our interoperability and continuous cooperation with the French military,” said Lt. Col. Frank Tantillo, Task Force Iron Gray commander. “Because of joint trainings like this, we are all more ready to succeed at our missions and allow future task forces to continue carrying on these partnerships for years to come.”

This is the first time the Army Mountain Warfare School has conducted mountain training for French service members in Djibouti. For years, French forces have routinely invited U.S. service members to participate in the French Desert Commando Course in Djibouti. During Task Force Iron Gray’s deployment to the Horn of Africa, 53 Soldiers completed the grueling 12-day course, earning the foreign identification badge.

The Joint Expeditionary Mountain Warfare Course was a way for the U.S. Army to give back by including foreign nation service members from France’s 5e RIAOM, and share specialty skill sets that strengthen the relationships among the international forces working together in the region. Thirty-two French service members from the 5e RIAOM completed the Joint Expeditionary Mountain Warfare Course.

“This is part of a mutual cooperation between the U.S. and the French,” said French Capt. Benoit Malet, commander, French Desert Commando Course. “The U.S. came here to teach the French their own techniques. We do the same things but different ways, so it is very interesting to us to discover a new view on what we do.”