US military deploys top Marine Corp to Africa amid battle against Al-Shabaab in Somalia
NAIROBI, Kenya - US military has deployed a top Marine Corp to Africa, Gen. Stephen Townsend announced, in the latest changes made to strengthen its force across the continent.
US Marine Corps Sgt. Maj Richard Thresher was installed as Command Senior Enlisted Leader [CSEL] on Friday in Stuttgart, Germany, becoming the first officer to occupy the job in AFRICOM.
Stephen Townsend, the AFRICOM commander, presided over the function, where he elaborated on the importance of enlisted corps in the service.
"The enlisted corps is the backbone of our force, and in my view, it is the backbone of any credible armed force," Townsend said.
At the moment, US Africa Command has almost 6,000 soldiers across Africa, with close to 600 serving in Somalia, a country that has fought against terrorism for a decade.
Among others, the new officer will serve as an advisor to the AFRICOM besides providing feedback on the state of the enlisted force, Townsend said.
"I want him to be the senior enlisted advisor to me, my candid advisor," he said. "Every commander should have people on their staff that can come in, close the door, and say 'hey boss, we need to have some straight talk.' I charged him with that responsibility."
Sgt. Maj Thresher, who enlisted with Marine in 1990, thanked those that attended and expressed his excitement to be a part of AFRICOM.
"We are all in the same team, yes, I am a Marine, but now I'm AFRICOM," Thresher said, "So we are all on the same team."
He served at various levels in the Marine Corps, including the II Marine Expeditionary Force Sgt. Maj., 2nd Radio Battalion (Signals Intelligence); Sgt. Maj., 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, and as the Sgt. Maj., Headquarters Battalion, AFRICOM said.
The artilleryman holds a bachelor's and master's degree from American Military University and a graduate-level certificate from East Carolina University, a quick search shows.
"We are in Germany with a bunch of seasoned professionals that are taking a serious look onto the continent in support of the United States and in support of AFRICOM," Thresher said.
But the deployment comes at the time the US is contemplating to scale down its forces in Africa, despite rising cases of extremism especially in the Horn of Africa.
In a statement that was widely criticized by Democratic lawmakers, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, however, defended himself, saying "that doesn't mean total withdrawal" from Africa.
Early this month, Gen. Townsend visited Kenya and Somalia, where he met several local leaders besides visiting Manda Airfield, which was raided by Al-Shabaab militants in January.
The US military has been conducting precision airstrikes in central and southern Somalia, killing a top Al-Shabaab militant linked to the Manda Airfield attack last week.
Since January, at least 18 airstrikes have been launched against the Al-Qaida linked militants, with dozens of them dying in the process, AFRICOM reported.
A recent report by the United Nations indicates that most militants are abandoning remote villages due to US airstrikes in Somalia, significant progress towards the degrading of Al-Shabaab.