BURKINA FASO —
The African sun rises over an airfield here near the capital of Ouagadougou. Villagers look to the sky with anticipation as children point upwards and smile once they witness the opening of parachutes.
Flintlock is an annual exercise that provides African, North American and European participants the opportunity to build trust and confidence, and bolster partnerships. Burkinabe, Malian, American, Austrian, Polish, Spanish and Portuguese paratroopers performed high-altitude low-opening and static line jumps. It is U.S. Africa Command’s largest annual special operations forces exercise.
Approximately 1,500 service members from more than 20 African and western partner nations are participating in Flintlock 2018 at multiple locations here, and in Niger and Senegal.
U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Andrew Young, symbolized this devotion by jumping tandem with a partner nation.
“The demonstrated interoperability of Flintlock [is realized] with so many nations working together to show we are stronger as a team than individually,” Young said. “By me jumping out of the aircraft, I threw myself into that commitment.”
One of the highlights was the Burkinabe free fall team, who descended back to earth into a loud applause from their countrymen.
Woro Godso has logged more than 700 jumps since 1994. He has jumped with several African partners to include Niger, Mali, Uganda, Morocco, Ghana, Benin and Togo.
“It’s a good thing that we can jump with so many countries — the collective experience is important,” Godso said.
“If they give me the opportunity to jump, I will do so!” said local villager Bougma Adama. “Being here with the soldiers today makes me feel like a soldier.”
Earning U.S. Parachutist’s Wings
Following the jump, the U.S. team recognized two Malian troops who earned U.S. paratrooper’s jump wings during a ceremony in front of their peers and platoon members.
“I have many jumps, but jumping with the U.S. was new to me, and great to add to my military experience,” said Malian Capt. Lassine Togola.