“Our training actually already started in Enköping last week when we got to hear many interesting lectures,” says Force Commander, Brigadier General Stefan Andersson.
Around 120 people participated in Enköping from effectively all sections of the Nordic Battlegroup. Forty officers from the five participating countries have accompanied the group to Kenya. The course, which has been approved by the Swedish government, is being conducted at the Peace Support Training Center (PSTC) just outside Kenya’s capital Nairobi. PSTC is the Kenyan equivalent of Swedint and a number of training courses are conducted here for personnel that are due to head out on various forms of international duty.
The story of daily life
The first part of the week has had more of a theoretical approach with various lectures about e.g. issues concerning children and gender, the African Union's own peacekeeping rapid response forces and how the African people themselves view the conflicts and problems that exist on the vast continent.
However, the lecture that most touched the participants was one that was actually entirely improvised.
“It was when Joyce Olangó-Agoro, a woman that works at PSTC, came and described her life here in Kenya as a mother of three children. The questions concerning everyday life from us listeners never stopped coming,” explains one of the course participants, Captain Jonas Rick, who is part of the Logistics Battalion.
The skill of the drivers is crucial
The second part of the week has been more practical. On Wednesday, for example, the participants were out driving on the roads in and around Nairobi in order to gain an idea about the traffic situation and the standard of the road network, both in the city and in the countryside.
All at once, a traffic accident occurred a short distance in front of the Swedish vehicles.
“It wasn’t a serious accident, but in one second, everything changed,” says Jonas Rick. “People tried to make their way past the scene of the accident by driving on the verge, in the ditch and through the forest, and it was total chaos for almost an hour. I’ve been in both Kosovo and Afghanistan, but never experienced anything like this. It can quite simply be said that our drivers’ skills will be crucial if we’re to perform transportation successfully in an environment such as this.”
Kimmo Ruotsalainen, who is the Deputy Commander of the Finnish infantry company, which is part of the Core Battalion, believes that ‘aha’ experiences of this kind are good.
“Now we know, at least partly, what’s expected of us if we’re deployed in Africa.”
The course participants will head north again late on Friday evening. Once home, the work of informing others in the Nordic Battlegroup about the new knowledge gained will begin.
“This is a complex continent, not least in terms of climate,” says Stefan Andersson.
Knowledge, forethought and care (of troops) are three keywords that he emphasises in this context.
“It’s extremely important that leaders on all levels are aware of the significance and the effect that our plans and decisions have on our soldiers. It’s important to be able to maintain the value of military action. However, it’s my firm belief that if you can handle it in an extreme climate, such as Africa, you can handle it anywhere,” says Stefan Andersson.