Multinational Special Operations Training Exercise Concludes in Western Africa

March 27, 2023 - Defence Stories


A member of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) advises a special forces officer from Niger on the conduct and execution of close quarters battle drills during Exercise FLINTLOCK 2023

People call him Bobo and he is everything you would expect of a young special forces officer; energetic, charismatic, committed, and skilled. From March 1st to 15th, 2023 Bobo was a trainer for his special forces detachment from Niger during Exercise FLINTLOCK 2023 in Côte d'Ivoire, a multinational special operations and law enforcement training exercise among African, Western and other nations in Western Africa.

Bobo's team arrived for the exercise with proficient skills to conduct military tasks that are often assigned to Special Forces, such as special reconnaissance, direct action and military assistance. Beyond the baseline training that support these foundational tasks, participants of Exercise FLINTLOCK benefited from insight provided by Western partner nations, whose role it was to mentor by offering alternative perspectives, guidance and suggestions throughout.

For the twelfth year, personnel from the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) mentored their counterparts in the topics of mission planning and the execution of special forces operations with an aim to shape and develop their partner force's experience and skills in a training environment.

Exercise FLINTLOCK presents a unique opportunity to enhance West Africa's regional Special Forces coordination, discuss and address common security challenges, and increase interoperability. In Bobo's home country of Niger, and especially along the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso, extremist activity poses a very real threat to regional security and stability. From his point of view "the exchange of experience, cohesion of troops and the pooling of capabilities and training methods will facilitate the implementation and planning of future operations".

African partner nations were mentored as individuals and in small groups as well as higher echelon staff that formed a headquarters to direct and enable exercise missions. When asked about what CANSOFCOM brings to the table for the exercise, the team leader for Canada said that "we bring our expertise in training and enabling partner nations as well as our experience working in multinational teams".

Supporting mentees through hardship, and sometimes failure, at each level proved to be one of the largest challenges for the team. However, over the span of two weeks, mistakes and missteps were looked at as opportunities to learn and grow as a team. As a result, operational and mission planning procedures steadily improved until the final mission was concluded on March 13, 2023.

Captain Kouassi, a public affairs officer from Côte d'Ivoire, learned that good and coordinated communications with the public is essential for mission success. Regarding Exercise FLINTLOCK she said that "this exercise emphasized the importance of well-conducted communications as a means to guarantee the maintenance of public relations, that in turn, are essential for the safety and security of a state."

Beyond the special forces led training scenarios, topics such as ethics and governing laws were frequently discussed and examined. These essential elements of credible military operations were exercised in full by integrating local military and civilian police and government prosecutors into the exercise. Known as a legal-finish, law enforcement agencies ensured that the collection, and chain of custody, of evidence was controlled and conducted to a high standard. Captain Kouassi sees the integration of these capabilities as "as an opportunity to act for a more just world."

Exercise FLINTLOCK 23 was an excellent opportunity for CANSOFCOM to continue to build capacity with partners and allies who collectively aim to enable African nations to counter terrorism across Western Africa.  While this was the first time that Bobo and Captain Kouassi had worked with the Canadians, they both felt that the exercise and their experiences with the Canadian team was enriching.

Page details

Date modified: