Photo By Debra Valine | Soldiers from the Vermont National Guard
THEIS, SENEGAL | 03.01.2019
Story by Debra Valine
A foreign military sales case that provided M4 carbines to partner country Senegal shows the FMS process is flexible and can be tailored to fit the need.
The flexibility of the FMS process allows Army priorities and urgent requirements that involve building partner capacity to be met expeditiously. Slow is a misperception.
When a U.S. ally or partner identifies a need to purchase military items through the FMS process, it usually starts with a letter of request. In the case of providing M4A1 carbine weapon systems to the Senegalese army, the Security Assistance Command used an existing contract to meet a need to expedite delivery of the weapons.
Senegal is a partner of the U.S. in promoting peace and security in Africa. Its army requested the weapons and associated training prior to deploying to Mali to support the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, an ongoing United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Africa Command, the geographic combatant command, and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency identified the case as a priority and critical to support Senegalese units being deployed to Mali for the peacekeeping mission.
The weapons will be used to ensure security, stabilization and protection of civilians and protection of human rights, as well as other tasks.
In June, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the diversion of 2,200 M4A1 carbines. Senegal received the weapons in August. Standard lead times for procurement of weapons could be anywhere from 24 to 30 months.
USASAC coordinated delivery with U.S. government representatives in Senegal to ensure the in-country delivery address was accurate and to provide vital updates as to when weapons would arrive in country.
The Tank-automative and Armaments Command worked the immediate release of 2,200 weapons from Colt’s West Hartford, Connecticut, facility and began planning delivery in conjunction with the Transportation Command.
Under USASAC’s Total Package Approach, 50 Senegalese soldiers received familiarization training on the M4 in September at the Mount Rolland Training Site, Theis, Senegal.
Members of the Vermont National Guard conducted the four days of training. Vermont is paired with Senegal under the State Partnership Program, which is a joint Department of Defense program managed by the National Guard Bureau.
The joint Air/Army team provided familiarization training on the new weapons system, which replaces the M16A1. The focus was to train the trainer so the 50 Senegalese soldiers would be able to conduct similar training in their units.
Training consisted of classroom support training that enhanced safe range procedures, weapon functionality and different firing positions and techniques and live fire ranges, where the Senegalese soldiers zeroed and qualified the weapons.
“The Vermont National Guard received this mission on short notice,” Philip Sauger Jr., the central case manager for Senegal, said. “The concept of the operation was to drive toward SAF conducting safe and focused range operations that high-lighted familiarization of the M4 and enhanced pre-mobilization tasks.”
“The training was executed very well, and the joint team received a dedicated and focused group from the Senegalese army,” Sgt. Maj. Nathan Chipman, Vermont National Guard, said. “Thirty of the Senegalese soldiers who received this training are also in the process of mobilizing for Mali operations and will be using this training to conduct further familiarization classes for their parent units.”
“Various types of weapons have been provided to Senegal in the past, but this was Senegal’s first FMS buy utilizing national funds since 2007,” Sauger said.
Senegal paid roughly $1.6 million in national funds for the 2,200 M4s received.
“For this particular FMS buy, we were able to leverage a firm-fixed-price contract awarded to Colt by the Department of Defense,” Sauger said. “Having the contract in place with Colt allowed for us to meet the urgent need of the customer for these weapons and drastically cut down the normal contracting timelines usually associated with FMS buys.”
Getting the weapons to Senegal proved to be a challenge.
“Primary challenges faced was coordinating the expedited delivery of weapons into Senegal,” Sauger said. “It is very rare that there are scheduled channel flights into Senegal as there is not a reoccurring channel established by the U.S. Air Force supporting missions into Senegal. With the great work and coordination between USASAC, TACOM, TRANSCOM and AFRICOM, we were able to devise a delivery plan to ensure U.S. Air Force assets were made available to support the expedited delivery of weapons into Senegal.”