Hello, I’d like to tell you about the progress of a Spirit of America funded effort to build unit pride, increase accountability, and improve trust in Somalia’s premier counterterrorism force by US military trainers and advisers in Lower Shebelle, Somalia. We first introduced you to this effort here. Members of the Danab, meaning Lightning in the Somali language, take pride in their skills and in their unit. In an effort to further develop this sense of pride and camaraderie, US trainers and advisers have provided the unit with new SoA-funded unit flags, insignia, and patches. The patches in particular are coveted items that must be earned through a rigorous training regimen. Upon graduating from the US course of instruction, Soldiers are presented with a patch and can call themselves Danab, wearing their colors with pride. These unit flags and patches have another, more important purpose. They have contributed greatly to the unit’s ability to build rapport and trust in the communities where they operate. As the Danab fly their flags on patrol and during counterterrorism operations, they take ownership for their actions, victories, and mistakes. No longer seen as just another foreign force rotating through this chaotic land, the Danab are now building relationships and are seen for that they really are, Somalis serving and protecting their fellow countrymen. Improved perceptions and relationships have led to more community cooperation, decreased the effectiveness of al-Shabaab messaging, and swung momentum back in favor of a peaceful and stable Somalia. While the patches and guidons have certainly had an effect on the unit and the population they work to protect, the real credit belongs to the soldiers themselves and the US trainers working to build their capacity. At the root of their success is their hard work and dedication to defeating the scourge of al-Shabaab and violent extremism in the Horn of Africa. Your generous support makes efforts like this one possible and is critical in supporting the efforts of the US and our allies in the world’s toughest places. You can read more about this project or contribute to the effort here. Chris VanJohnson Project Manager – Africa
Chris is a US Army veteran having served as an Armor officer with a deployment to Baghdad in 2008-09 and then as a Special Operations Civil Affairs Officer with multiple deployments to Nepal in 2011-12.