Peacekeepers become pioneers in the Central African Republic |
Driving an excavator, bulldozer or wheel loader didn’t come naturally to Chief Private Ryan Herdhika, an avid motorcyclist and soldier with the Indonesian Army’s 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion. But he has just passed his heavy engineering equipment test and will be deployed next month to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) as part of the Indonesian peacekeeping force.
“It will be the first time in my life that I will go abroad, and I am proud that my first trip will be as a UN peacekeeper, not as a tourist,” the soldier said. Chief Herdhika, while riding on a grader to practice leveling the ground at a training ground in Sentul, in the Indonesian army‘s sprawling peacekeeping center.
With nearly 2,700 soldiers on active duty in seven UN peacekeeping missions, Indonesia is the eighth largest contributor to global peacekeeping operations.
Solid foundations for a fragile peace process
Under the UN’s Triangular Partnership Program (TPP) – which brings together countries that provide trainers and resources, and troop-contributing countries that deploy in peacekeeping missions – military engineers with extensive experience in the use of heavy engineering equipment in Japan’s peacekeeping missions. Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has trained 20 Indonesian soldiers.
Indonesian armed forces personnel who have undergone the training will use their skills to help build and repair UN mission and host nation infrastructure, including supply roads and camp grounds, and support national recovery efforts following natural disasters in the Central African Republic. MINUSCA has been present in the country since 2014, with a mandate to protect civilians and support the fragile peace process and the transitional government.
“This is a very challenging course, as you have to learn how to use a diverse set of equipment in just nine weeks,” said JGSDF Training Team Commander Lt. Col. Tsuyoshi Toyoda. . “The trainees have worked hard, passed the test and are ready to deploy.”
While there are commercial instructors available to teach these skills in a civilian setting, the complexity of UN peacekeeping operations requires trainers with peacekeeping experience.
“On a normal construction site, operators specialize in one type of equipment, but here we need soldiers to learn and use six types of machinery,” said Colonel Herman Harnas, director of international cooperation. at the Indonesian Armed Forces Peacekeeping Center. “In a peacekeeping situation, you also don’t have the luxury of having separate personnel to maintain vehicles – so soldiers have to learn that as well.”
This is the first time that such a training course has taken place in Indonesia, although similar courses have been organized in Brazil, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Uganda and Viet Nam, countries which are also contributing important way to United Nations peacekeeping efforts.
Improving the readiness and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions is at the heart of the TPP’s raison d’être. But the job of a peacekeeping engineer serving in UN missions requires more than specialized technical knowledge, and the TPP reflects the harsh reality of the peacekeeping environment.
“Our soldiers also learn discipline and the importance of following protocols, which is especially important in emergency situations when they need to act quickly,” says Colonel Harnas. “Soldiers can now deploy to MINUSCA, one of the UN’s most complex peace operations.
A particular set of skills
The UN is committed to continuing to build the technical, medical and technological capabilities of uniformed peacekeepers, said Rick Martin, director of special activities at the UN’s Department of Operational Support in New York.
“As we face new operational challenges within United Nations peacekeeping operations, high-quality enabling units in engineering and other key capability areas will need to continue to be a priority area if we are to address capability gaps and improve the performance of United Nations peacekeeping operations,” he adds.
Next year, UN and Japanese trainers will return to Sentul to conduct a train-the-trainer course, this time to train future equipment trainers for armies across the region who contribute to peacekeeping. Until then, Chief Private Herdhika will operate engineering equipment in the Central African Republic. “But after I return, I hope to be able to pass on my knowledge and experience to my future fellow peacekeepers as well,” he says.