‘Daggers,’ K-State collaborate on Africa mission
Spc. Samuel Boateng, HHB, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., and a Ghana native, left, speaks with Moustapha Soumaila, graduate student in entomology, K-State, and native of Niger, right, at the Demon’s Den Dining Facility Sept. 17 at Fort Riley. Soumaila and other African natives and regional experts from K-State have been working with the “Dagger” Brigade as it conducts its regional alignment mission with Africa. Photo by: Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, 2ND ABCT.
Story by: Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
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Students and faculty with Kansas State University's College of Arts and Sciences and its African Studies department have been working with Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, as they continuously send members of the brigade to Africa as part of their regional alignment with the continent.
As the Army's first regionally aligned brigade with U.S. Africa Command, the "Dagger" Brigade is setting and creating precedents for the types of missions other units might follow in the future, as they take up 2nd ABCT's mantle. In utilizing the expertise and experience of the K-State students and professors during Dagger University, a weeklong preparatory course for Soldiers deploying to Africa, the brigade's purpose is to ensure Soldiers get a unique, personal and face-to-face perspective about the continent and its many complexities.
K-State "has been supporting Dagger University since its first run in March, and this is really what I would call a mutually beneficial project," said Daryl Youngman, associate professor, K-State. "We know that the Soldiers benefit by getting first-hand experience from graduate students and faculty members that have direct relationships with Africa and are given a richness of information that might not necessarily be in the curriculum book."
To date, Soldiers with the Dagger Brigade have worked across Africa in nations, including Malawi, Burundi, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone, Djibouti and South Africa. Missions range from small team-size military-to-military training exercises in fields, like first aid and basic marksmanship, to theater security cooperation missions and larger battalion-size joint exercises.
Whatever the mission, the expertise of K-State delegations to Dagger University has been valuable, said Col. Jeffery Broadwater, commander, 2nd ABCT.
"We talked about the cultural piece of that, and that's a place again where K-State really helps us out immensely," Broadwater said. "School is back in session in Manhattan, and graduate and undergraduate students from various countries in Africa continue to come over and help us understand the culture and other things that they can to get us ready for these missions. That is just a huge resource that K-State has been able to provide as we do this."
K-State leadership echoed Broadwater's sentiments that the school's resources should be used as an advantage whenever possible.
"What we have over at K-State is an asset, like every other asset that you have," said Peter Dorhout, dean, K-State College of Arts and Sciences. "When you need a tool, when you need some information, when you are heading out into a new part of the world, we very likely have individuals who have lived there, worked there, studied that region and can provide some insights that make folks successful in the kinds of missions that they're engaged in."
During the most recent iteration of Dagger University, Dorhout and other senior faculty from K-State were in attendance, along with several students, to speak with Soldiers preparing to deploy to various missions to Africa. The groups sat down together at the Demon's Den Dining Facility for an informal lunch, where they exchanged knowledge and experiences.
Something Soldiers will need to keep in mind is that they might not be seen as merely a sergeant, a lieutenant or a captain, said one of the K-State visitors.
"They will be seen in many ways as the personal representative of the U.S., and that needs to guide the way they interact with institutions and people," said Andrew Orr, assistant professor, military history and African history, who has traveled across Africa and worked alongside governments to develop institutions in Mali and the Central African Republic.
Soldiers will think "these people are treating me as if I am the secretary of defense, but I need to remember who I am and why I've been sent here, and try and focus on doing my job," he said.
Dorhout said the experience has so far been highly successful, and he said he hopes to work further with the Dagger Brigade and other Fort Riley units to help solve some of the world's major problems.
"I appreciate the opportunity and the interest that the fort has in utilizing us as an asset, particularly as the brigade has so many things going on. You all, like the College of Arts and Sciences, have a breadth of activities," he said. "I think that we can work together and learn from each other, so that we can grow together in addressing global challenges."