December 3, 2022

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Peacekeepers Become Pioneers in Central African Republic — Global Issues

3 min read

Operating an excavator, bulldozer or wheel loader didn’t come naturally to Chief Private Ryan Herdhika, an avid motorcyclist and soldier in the Indonesian Army’s 3rd Combat Engineering Battalion. But he just passed his heavy engineering equipment exam and will be deployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) next month as part of the Indonesian peacekeeping force there.

“It will be the first time in my life going abroad and I’m proud that my first trip is as a UN peacekeeping force and not as a tourist,” Chief Private Herdhika said while boarding a motor grader, to practice leveling the ground at a training ground in Sentul, the Indonesian military’s vast peacekeeping center.

With nearly 2,700 active-duty troops in seven UN peacekeeping missions, Indonesia is the eighth-largest contributor to global peacekeeping operations.

A Japanese military instructor is helping a soldier from the Indonesian Army's 3rd Combat Engineering Battalion perfect his skills driving a motor grader - equipment he needs to operate with the MINUSCA peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic.

UNIC Indonesia/Rizky Ashar

Solid foundations for a fragile peace process

As part of the UN’s Triangular Partnership Program (TPP) – which brings together countries providing trainers and resources and troop-contributing countries deployed for peacekeeping operations – military engineers with extensive experience operating heavy technical equipment in peacekeeping operations of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) trained 20 Indonesian soldiers.

Indonesian Armed Forces personnel who have completed the training will use their skills to assist in the construction and repair of the UN mission’s and host country’s infrastructure, including supply routes and storage sites, and support national reconstruction efforts following natural disasters in the Central African Republic to support. MINUSCA has been present in the country since 2014 with a mandate to protect the civilian population and support the fragile peace process and the transitional government.

“This is a very rigorous course that requires learning how to use a variety of equipment in just nine weeks,” said Lt. Col. Tsuyoshi Toyoda, commander of the JGSDF training team. “The trainees worked hard, passed the exam and are ready for action.”

While commercial instructors are available to teach these skills in a civilian setting, the complexity of UN peacekeeping operations requires instructors with peacekeeping experience.

“On a normal construction site, operators specialize in a single type of equipment, but here soldiers must learn and operate six types of machines,” said Colonel Herman Harnas, director of international cooperation at the Indonesian Armed Forces Peacekeeping Center. “In a peacekeeping situation, you also can’t afford the luxury of having separate personnel to maintain the vehicles – so the soldiers have to learn that too.”

This is the first time such a training course has been held in Indonesia, although similar courses have been held in Brazil, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Uganda and Vietnam, countries which are also major contributors to United Nations peace efforts.

Improving the readiness and effectiveness of peacekeeping operations is at the core of the TPP’s raison d’être. But the job of a peacekeeping engineer serving on 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. “The soldiers can now be used in MINUSCA, one of the most complex UN peacekeeping operations.”

Chief Private Ryan Herdhika of the Indonesian Army's 3rd Combat Engineering Battalion practices how to smooth a surface - a task he will be required to perform regularly at the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA once he deploys next month.

UNIC Indonesia/Rizky Ashar

A specific set of skills

The United Nations is committed to further strengthening the technical, medical and technological capabilities of uniformed peacekeepers, says Rick Martin, director of special activities at the United Nations Operational Support Division in New York.

“Faced with new operational challenges in UN peacekeeping operations, highly skilled support units in engineering and other key skill areas must continue to be a priority area if we are to close capability gaps and improve the performance of UN peacekeeping operations,” he adds.

Next year, instructors from the United Nations and Japan will be back in Sentul to hold an instructor training course, this time to teach future equipment instructors to armies from across the region that contribute to peacekeeping. Until then, Chief Private Herdhika will operate technical equipment in the Central African Republic. “But when I return, I hope that I can pass on my knowledge and experience to my future Peacekeeper colleagues,” he says.

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