Soddy-Daisy soldier helping train African counterparts

A U.S. Naval Sea Cadet holds an American flag before the Armed Forces Day Parade on Friday, May 6, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. This was the first Armed Forces Day Parade since last July's shootings at military facilities in which five service members were killed.

On the outskirts of Thies, a city in Senegal that sits less than 20 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, a man from Soddy-Daisy is getting a crash course in the culture of West Africa.

That is, when he's not directing barrages of explosive mortar rounds or hoofing it through the country's arid grasslands in full tactical gear.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Thomas, 30, who serves in the Army's 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., has been stationed in Senegal for the last two weeks.

The 2004 graduate of Soddy-Daisy High School enlisted at age 20, and after a decade of service he's been all over the world. His latest mission is part of a training program designed to build relationships and coordination between the U.S.