By Kofi Ampeah-Woode, Bundase
The Ghana Armed Forces’ (GAF) vision to upgrade the Bundase Training Camp (BTC), to a modern United Nations (UN) Peace Support Operations Centre of Excellence, has kickstarted with a new type of pre-deployment training, codenamed ISSIFU ATARABOS, which depicts actual situation soldiers face in mission areas, and is aimed at reinforcing concentration lectures, before troops are inserted in the UN theater.
The context-specific training, which took its turn with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Ghana Battalion 88 (GHANBATT 88), who are to replace GHANBATT 87, started at the BTC, on Saturday June 19, 2021, and likely to last for five weeks.
As part of the training, the troops engaged journalists in a tour of their duty positions and at a press conference, to prepare them to adequately engage international media houses, whose staff present various postures, especially at the Force Headquarters, and also allow the media to understand the new type of training regime and the work of the Ghanaian peacekeeper in UNIFIL.
Improvising, the camp has been set up as it is in Lebanon, with troops practicing on how to conduct Checkpoints, Guard Points and a prototype of the Operations (OPS) Room, having been given injects, e.g. how they would respond, should they come under small arms attack, how to react to shelling when they are receiving journalists or UN personnel, and how to perform humanitarian exercises.
Journalists were also taken to company positions of Alpha, Bravo and Charlie and were, to see the improvised Blueline – which is actually a ‘no-man’s-land’, where the UN controls the demilitarized zone, which is on the side of Lebanon, and Israeli Defense Force (IDF), on the other side.
As depicted of the Blueline for the purpose of the training, portions of the Lebanon part of the divide are monitored and patrolled by GHANBATT, whiles at the other side, the IDF have created a fence way back, so they can control their own patrols, as portions are mined to deter entries, whiles other portions have safe cut-lanes for access with gates, basically for tactical reasons, but they occasionally come over the fence to cut trees which are obstructing their surveillance equipment.
GHANBATT, per the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and 2485, holds a position to monitor the Blueline and to conduct joint patrols with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAR), conduct Area Domination Patrols, provide security for UN personnel, equipment and installations, protect unarmed civilians who are under eminent threats, carry out Joint Training with the LAR, maintain constant contact with local authorities, engage community leadership in the Area of Responsibility (AOR), through key leadership engagements in order to reduce the activities of armed elements in the AOR.
In recent years, Lebanon has experienced several economic and political crises, resulting from internal power struggles, affecting political and military situations of neighbouring countries and the entire Gulf Region.
The situation in Lebanon is built on past governments efforts, neighbouring Israel and a gradual weakening of its military by Hezbollah, with most of the country’s problems also coming from its weak economic situation, and the political situation in Lebanon, basically being a result of various alliances and the internal division of its parliament Hezbollah lead government. Hezbollah claims legitimacy as a protector of Lebanon, against Israel.
GHANBATT’s headquarters together with four other positions, coupled with some static posts, monitors the Blueline, with the aim of achieving its mission, using a focus-vision-wide approach, by preventing escalation of violence, creating a conducive environment for civilians, prevent spillover of violence into Sector West, with the ultimate mission of supporting the peace process in Southern Lebanon.
Speaking to the press, the Commanding Officer (CO) – 6 Battalion of Infantry and GHANBATT 88 – Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Benjamin Boamah said the operational plan is to rehearse and teach the troops to understand what is ahead; like the internal operations to be conducted – cordon, patrols, guard duties and all the material assistance to be given to civilians in Southern Lebanon.
Lt Col Boamah intimated that, troops’ feeding, their remuneration and equipment to operate in the mission area, all meet international standard, hence it is expected that their morale would be high, furthermore, additional equipment promised by High Command, upon insertion onto the mission area, would further lift the troops’ morale.
The CO, in conclusion, said that social gatherings, the playing of games and some educational programs, are conducted, when the troops are not in operation, and are in the camp, and are also assured that after 6 months, they will have their leave to be with their families, back home in Ghana.
Lt Col Eric Aboagye Tieku – Deputy Director, Army Peacekeeping Operations, also spoke to the media to further explain the rationale for the additional training regime: He stated that basically, his office’s role is to train and prepare the GHANBATT earmarked for the mission.
Lt Col Aboagye Tieku stated that the pre-deployment training started from Command, Staff and Operational Skills Training (CSOST), which is a 3-week exercise was aimed at enhancing the operational capabilities of the leadership of the battalion – key appointment holders, and culminates into the Command Post exercises on military planning and other processes.
The Deputy DAPKOP said that Ex Issifu Atarabos – meaning Storm Lurking – is a moderate to high tempo exercise aimed at enhancing the efficiency and proficiency of the Battalion in peacekeeping mission.
He further said that, in Issifu Atarabos, there is denial of access, verification patrols, reporting and monitoring of Blueline violations, crowd control, leadership dilemma issues (where a picture is painted of something happening at one place and then another happening elsewhere, concurrently, where the Commander should be able to decide which one should be reacted to first, and which one is not priority.
Lt Col Aboagye Tieku concluded that, henceforth, the BTC’s pre-deployment trainings, will be mission-specific, thus, if a GHANBATT is preparing for UN Mission In South Sudan (UNMISS), situations in UNMISS will be played and trained with, since situations played are what is stated from Situation and Intelligence Summary Reports which are sent from the missions.