Ugandan, U.S. Soldiers Form 'One Team' During Joint-Training
U.S. soldiers attached to Combined Joint Task Forcee -- Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) completed their latest military-to-military training when more than 170 Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers graduated the Kasenyi Special Forces Group Advanced Infantry Course, June 22. Training for the 16-week program was led by a combined team of UPDF and U.S. soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion 161st Field Artillery and the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion 137th Infantry, both Kansas Army National Guard units. U.S. Army Colonel Damon Igou, CJTF-HOA operations director, said the course was an example of partner nation cooperation.
"Our success relies on our continuing to treat each other with dignity and respect," Igou said. "The skills you've shared during this course will serve us all well as we continue to work together as peaceful nations."
The course included classroom training and practical exercises on individual movement techniques; first-aid; land navigation; search techniques; military operations in urban terrain; first aid, identifying improvised explosive devices; vehicle searches; and entry control point procedures.
"The UPDF has performed at a very high level," U.S. Army Specialist Tucker Steele, a course instructor, said. "Watching them shoot, move and communicate has made me grow as a soldier. It's given me a better appreciation of what we all can do as one team."
Once the UPDF students became familiar with their partner nation instructors, they rapidly coalesced into one united force. Each nation's cultural and doctrinal differences were accepted when their unity of mission was made apparent.
"The UPDF has different ways of doing things," U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Kirk Branum, a course instructor, said. "They have a different perspective on soldiering skills, but at the end of the day we're all here for the same purpose: training."
This training united the U.S. and Ugandan soldiers and each group developed a burgeoning respect for the abilities and talents of the other.
"The class prepared us as soldiers and created good friendships," UPDF Lance Corporal Christopher Okumu, a student, said. "Our relationship should stay. I think the U.S. soldiers learned from the way we treat each other and behave."
One example of the behavior Okumu alluded to is UPDF soldiers singing patriotic songs and contemporary Ugandan hits early each morning while gathering for the day's activities.
"The singing prepares us for the day," Okumu said. "It raises our morale and prepares us to graduate after a long struggle through this class." According to Steele, the UPDF's camaraderie was contagious. "These guys really get us up and going in the morning with their enthusiasm," he said. "It really helps me out -- gives me goose bumps." While some of the U.S. instructors say they are ready to return to Djibouti, the prospect of leaving Camp Kasenyi comes with mixed feelings.
"We have gotten to know the UPDF soldiers on a personnel level during this course and they've become our friends and counterparts," Branham said. "It's been an honor and privilege to be here - If I could do it again, I really would."
Camp Kasenyi's senior enlisted official said he was pleased with the results of working with the U.S. Army. "Our cooperation is good - we should remain partners," UPDF Sergeant Major Daniel Mwamba said. "This course is an example of how we can all work together for peace and stability." (Editor's note -- The U.S. soldiers returned to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, June 25.)