U.S. Units Help Ethiopians Build Capacity
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP HURSO, Ethiopia, April 22, 2006 The 31 Ethiopian soldiers who graduated from border security class here yesterday gave new meaning to "building capacity," buzz words for the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa's efforts in the region.
Army 1st Lt. Christopher Anderson, the officer in charge of the U.S. training effort in Camp Hurso, Ethiopia, praises the students of his class during graduation exercises for the Border Security Class April 21. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
This class' conclusion was made even more special because the capacity building was by Ethiopian trainers, who had taught their comrades under the watchful and proud eyes of U.S. soldiers.
The class is part of military-to-military contacts between the task force and the Ethiopian army. The three-week class teaches Ethiopians a range of skills.
"This goes from troop-leading procedures to react to contact, break contact, reconnaissance, patrolling, vehicle searches and so on," said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Anderson, the camp's officer in charge.
Anderson and his men from B Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, are deployed from Guam, and ending their yearlong tour of duty in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopians come from units all over the country of 73 million people. Anderson said the more than 250 soldiers trained to date will go back to their units and pass along that training.
"The Ethiopians regard being chosen for this class as a huge step," said Sgt. Ryan Castro, the American team leader for the class. "They love it and eat it up. A part of this class is short-range marksmanship. The Ethiopian army shoots maybe 10 rounds a year. Here, they went through 400 to 500 rounds in a week."
The class is very intense, with 144 hours of instruction and countless more rehearsals. Translators worked with American noncommissioned officers to ensure the soldiers understood the instruction. "I have been impressed by the level of professionalism the Ethiopians demonstrate," Anderson said.
He said the unit developed the course with advice from Ethiopian army officials.
Part of the instruction is on respecting human rights, and British Army Col. Andrew Cameron, the assistant operations chief for the Horn of Africa task force, touched on this during his graduation remarks to the class.
"You as individuals, being members of the armed forces, are highly respected," Cameron said. "Your attitudes and behavior will reflect on you and your army. I'm confident you won't let the army down."
Cameron told the soldiers that their conduct during operations is just as important as the operations themselves.
The Ethiopians trained this group of soldiers, Anderson said. The American cadre was in "overwatch," correcting only when needed. "This really validated the course for the Ethiopians," he said.
Life at the camp was a bit rough, but "we Guam boys make the best of everything," Castro said. The unit received supplies and mail once a week from the airfield at Dire Dawa, about 30 miles away over a dirt road. The troops are looking forward to getting back to their Pacific base and are proud of the effect they have had on the Ethiopians.
"There's a big difference between when they come in and when they leave," Castro said. "They are professional when they arrive, but they are not sure what they are doing. When they leave, they know (what they are doing)."
Anderson was equally complimentary of the Ethiopian instructors. "They were students themselves who came through the early classes," he said. "They understood what we were trying to do and have made excellent progress."