U.S.-Trained African Forces Tool for Peace
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
STUTTGART, Germany, April 14, 1998 Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia -- for most U.S. service members, these are just names on a map. But for some soldiers, more and more often these African countries are temporary duty stations.
Since last summer, 60-man teams from 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., have been spending about 60 days at a time training African military forces to handle peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations. Logistics experts, military police and others from U.S. Army Europe and other units support the effort known as the African Crisis Response Initiative.
President Clinton hailed both the American military trainers and Africa's future peacekeepers April 1 during a visit to Thies, Senegal, one of the first nations to participate in the program.
"Terrible violence continues to plague our world, and Africa has seen some of the worst," Clinton told American and African troops there after watching their peacekeeping exercise. Although peace has taken hold in many African nations, he said, tensions linger and violence continues in others.
"Buried land mines prevent children from walking in safety in too many African countries," Clinton said. "Millions of refugees still remain driven from their homes. In the debris of war, poverty and disease thrive."
U.S.-trained African peacekeepers can bring "security, hope and a future" to a continent that has seen chaos and ruin, he said. "The international community needs new tools to keep the peace in volatile areas and cope with humanitarian crises."
U.S. training and equipment will help African military units respond "quickly and effectively to humanitarian and peacekeepiong challenges in Africa and around the world," he said. The goal is not to dominate African security or to abandon America's role there, but "to strengthen the capacity for preserving peace" by building on existing efforts of the Organization for African Unity, the United Nations, France, Britain and others.
Announcing plans to build a security studies center similar to the Marshall Center in Germany, Clinton said, "America will continue to be involved on this continent as long as African nations desire our assistance and our partnership in building a safer future."
The president then thanked the U.S. and Senegalese militaries for being partners, and he spoke of the threats they will face in the 21st century. "We must tell aggressors and those who tear societies apart, 'You will not prevail,'" he said. "We must prove that the peacemakers are getting stronger. And above all else, we must demonstrate that the peacemakers are working together."
The African Crisis Response Initiative aims to equip and train 10 to 12 infantry battalions and four to six special companies that can work together during contingencies, according to U.S. European Command officials. African nations request U.S. assistance, and the resulting training activities are coordinated with the Organization for African Unity and the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Developing professional, apolitical military forces that respect human rights is the goal, said Lt. Col. Jim Nunn, a political-military specialist at U.S. European Command here who works on African policy and strategy.
Nunn said the United States provides about $1.2 million for training and an equal amount for equipment such as uniforms, boots and personal load-bearing gear. "Putting everyone in the same uniform so they look like a military organization leads to pride and professionalism," he noted.
No weapons or other lethal equipment are supplied other than blanks and some ammunition used during force protection training, Nunn added. Leftover funds are rolled over to pay for refresher or sustainment training, he said.
In-processing procedures for the African troops includes an eye exam. "We bring in optometrists and provide glasses," Nunn said. "If you teach basic rifle marksmanship, it always helps to be able to see the target." For some African troops, he said, it's the first time their vision has ever been corrected.
The United States also furnishes compasses, radios, generators, water purification systems and other support equipment. "In Malawi, for example," Nunn said, "they used to have to go a couple of hundred miles to get water and then haul it in to the training site. Once they got a water purification system, they were able to hook right into a stream and turn out potable water for their soldiers. It saved a lot of time."
Since the program began in July 1997, U.S. forces have trained about 2,000 soldiers in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi and Mali. Training started in Ghana April 6, and two battalions and a brigade headquarters are slated to begin training in Ethiopia in August.
Training is tailored to meet each country's needs, Nunn said. The African nations tend to have infantry capabilities for convoy operations and for creating secure environments, but they need transportation companies and demining and engineer capabilities.
"Some countries may not be able to put together a battalion, but they may have a very strong demining capability," he said. "So they could put together a platoon or a company and we could structure the equipment and the training specifically for mine-clearing and engineering tasks."
Enhancing interoperability and ensuring standardization are cornerstones of the program, Nunn explained. U.S. officials pulled together U.S., U.N., Nordic, British and French peacekeeping doctrine to develop a common base of knowledge. The United States, the United Kingdom and France signed an agreement in 1996 to coordinate and ensure compatibility in their training efforts in Africa, he said. Today, the three countries programs complement each other training different levels of troops.
U.S. forces teach basic soldiering skills, such as first aid, map reading and hygiene, as well as the more advanced, unit-level skills of manning checkpoints and safeguarding convoys and refugees. Instruction is done the American way; troops learn tasks, conditions and standards. Comprehensive instruction manuals are translated into the local language and are passed on to the host nation at the end of initial training.
"Crawl, walk, run" is the motto, Nunn said. Military leaders first attend a seminar on doctrine, theory, tactics and techniques, then a command post exercise and combined field training exercise.
"By doing a seminar and then the command post exercise, you're posturing them for success," he said. "You're giving them the capabilities and the confidence before you move them to the next step."
The trainees aren't left to sink or swim at the other end of the initial 69 days either, Nunn said. Sustainment training and equipment maintenance is provided at six-month intervals for the next three to five years.
"You have to follow up the initial training, but you can't follow it up forever. There has to be a point where they take up the responsibility," Nunn said. "Training the trainer" is what it's all about. "This is not designed to be a program that goes on forever. We're trying to develop capabilities for the African militaries' NCOs and officers to train the next generation of militaries. This helps them become more self-sufficient."
Nunn said it was hard to separate trainers from trainees halfway through the course in Senegal. "You could go out and see two soldiers, both in BDUs, both speaking French, and you wouldn't know which was U.S. and which was Senegalese," he said. "We start integrating their noncommissioned officers into the training process so that they're also trainers."
Training also incorporates nongovernment organizations, private volunteer agencies and other military forces that would be involved in contingency operations. Aspects of the training focus on creating an environment that will allow humanitarian relief organizations to do their business, Nunn said.
Initially, nongovernment and volunteer organizations were hesitant to get involved in the program's final field training exercise, he added. "Once they saw what we were doing, they got on board fairly quick. Some, like the Red Cross, offered to help teach classes."
In some instances, military and civilians joined forces to the benefit of all. "In Uganda, the World Food Organization needed to deliver food to an area where we were doing the field training exercise, and we needed a convoy for the peacekeeping training," Nunn said. "We used their convoy for our training and we delivered their food. It was good for everybody all around."
Training requiring crowds also ended up serving a dual purpose. In one medical exercise, a lot of people are needed so trainees can practice crowd control and refugee management procedures used during peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations.
"The best way to get a crowd is to provide them something," Nunn said. The trainers offer free outpatient medical care to draw a crowd to work with and, at the same time, give something back to the community, he said.
The exercise also provided a positive example for the Africans on how to deal with the local community, nongovernment organizations, embassy staff and the media -- "all the components they'll have to deal with in a peacekeeping operation," Nunn said. "Africans aren't used to dealing with the media focus they will get in a peacekeeping or humanitarian operation."
How the newly trained African forces will be used is up to each sovereign nation, Nunn stressed. "A lot of countries think there's a string attached to this. They do sign an agreement stating that the equipment provided will only be used for peacekeeping, but there are no other requirements. We're not going to say, 'Hey, we trained you so now you have to go to the Central African Republic.'"
Nunn said the program is a win-win situation for the African units and the U.S. special forces. The Africans get equipment and training, and the Americans gain great knowledge about the host countries, improve their language capabilities and develop strong relationships. And, Nunn concluded, "In the long term, the African forces can conduct their own peacekeeping operations and not have to pull on the resources of the United States."