97565. U.S. Special Forces Train African Peacekeepers
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON -- Civil war produces devastation and refugees.
Drought produces famine and disease. When crises arise, grief-stricken
faces appear on television news broadcasts, pleading for help.
U.S. special forces are now training African military forces to
respond within 30 days when such regional humanitarian disasters
strike. The goal of the African Crisis Response Initiative is to
create effective, rapidly deployable units that can operate together
in a humanitarian or peacekeeping operation, Ambassador Marshall F.
McCallie said at a Pentagon press briefing, July 29.
McCallie is the State Department's special coordinator for the
initiative. He stressed the program is a training initiative. "We are
not trying to create an army in Africa," he said. To ensure no nation
feels threatened, participating countries are encouraged to invite
neighboring nations to observe the training.
The program began in Senegal and Uganda in late July with the
arrival of about 120 U.S. troops of the 3rd Special Forces Group and
XVIII Airborne Corps, both of Fort Bragg, N.C.; U.S. Army Europe; and
U.S. Special Operations Command. The American teams started 60-day
training programs Aug. 1 for about 750 host nation soldiers in each
country. Later this year, U.S. teams are scheduled to train similar
forces in Malawi, Ethiopia and Mali.
The U.S. training teams use peacekeeping doctrine based on
international standards, according to Col. David E. McCracken,
commander, 3rd Special Forces Group. Training each battalion will cost
the United States about $3 million, including $1 million in mainly
nonlethal U.S. equipment, primarily communications gear such as hand-
held radios, he said. The United States is also providing mine
detectors, ammunition for training exercises and water purification
U.S. officials conducted a pilot program to assess host nation
troops' operational needs. In most of the countries, soldiers did not
have individual support gear, McCracken said.
"They had uniforms. Their weapons were in pretty doggone good
shape -- good soldier discipline, good maintenance, but they don't
have canteens [or backpacks] because they operate inside their
borders, and private citizens carry [food and] water to them," he
The plan calls for the peacekeeping battalions to be able to
deploy and patrol, so the United States is providing each soldier with
an extra uniform, complete with boots and headgear, as well as basic
load-bearing equipment, including a canteen and a backpack, McCracken
Eye exams are the first step in the training process, McCracken
said. In one instance, about 70 of 300 soldiers tested needed glasses.
Glasses will be provided as part of the security systems package, he
said. Being able to see well will help build soldiers' confidence
during training and will contribute to unit discipline, McCracken
Along with teaching basic soldier skills, U.S. trainers are
emphasizing force protection, human rights, care of refugees, and
dealing with humanitarian organizations and civilian governments. A
final exercise involves setting up a civil-military operations center
that incorporates international organizations, nongovernmental and
private volunteer groups, and the media.
McCracken said the program will prepare the battalions adequately
for deployment -- U.S. forces preparing for Bosnia, for example, spent
up to six weeks training in similar tasks, conditions and standards.
"We really think that 60-day time frame is very effective, because
these units are already existing organizations," he said.
U.S. officials are working with the Organization of African Unity
and the United Nations as well as individual African nations, the
State Department's McCallie said. They are also working closely with
Great Britain and France to create a common peacekeeping training
initiative, leading to opportunities for joint training and joint
exercises, he said.
"We also recognize that many other countries can contribute
constructively to this effort, so we are inviting a much broader level
of participation," McCallie said. "We are asking other countries to
join us in this initiative, both in Africa and outside of Africa."
Each country that receives training retains the right to decide
whether to respond to a regional call or a call from the Organization
of African Unity or United Nations, he added.