U.S. cadets, midshipmen, build relationships in Uganda
August 10, 2011
ENTEBBE, Uganda - Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, participated in a weeklong leadership training workshop this month in cities throughout Uganda with the Ugandan Peoples Defense Force (UPDF).
The first phase of the training consisted of classroom instruction with Tanzanian instructors, physical training and familiarization with Ugandan military tactics.
Tanzanian Army Maj. Paul Masinde, officer in charge of training at the Junior Staff College (JSC), at Jinja, said that the instruction is crucial for those in leadership positions.
“The school instills methods to help junior officers perform,” he said.
U.S. Military Academy Cadet 1st Class Mark Freeman said he was surprised to see that the military training disseminated in Uganda is similar to U.S. military training.
“I was impressed with the junior officers at Jinja with how much professionalism they showed,” he said. “I will take that back to America to share with other in my career field.”
The platoon course instruction ranged from understanding differing leadership styles, planning methods and execution, platoon formations and movements.
U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen 1st Class Patrick Bagnick agreed that the training was important for his own military career.
“I learned how Ugandans learn,” he said. “They were all junior officers and they were learning how to interact and work with their peers on the battlefield.”
“It the real deal for them,” Bagnick said. “They will be going to battlefields in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This really hits home, for us and them.”
Every morning and afternoon, the cadets and midshipmen participated in formation runs with their Ugandan counterparts in a team-building exercise.
The UPDF are very enthusiastic about physical training, said Freeman.
“It is a bonding experience for them,” he said. “They are singing and smiling. The teamwork and morale is inspiring.”
During the next phase of training, the cadets and midshipmen travelled to Entebbe to work with Ugandan soldiers training for selection into the UPDF Special Forces.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Tim Wilkens, officer-in-charge for the Army training team working with the soldiers participating in the Advanced Infantry Combat Course, said it is very important to understand the militaries U.S. service members are partnering with in order to accomplish any mission.
“It’s my hope to see how other nations train and what they go through,” said Wilkens. “When other nations are viewed through the U.S. perspective, it may [seem] they are not up to our standards. In fact, [the UPDF] are close to those standards, so the cadets should be impressed by the level of training they have and the level of professionalism here today.”
“It should open their eyes that the U.S. is not the only military out there and these guys train to a very high standard,” he added.
Wilkens said Ugandan soldiers similar to American soldiers. They are open, kind and want to learn professional military tactics.
In addition to physically performing some platoon-level movements, the cadets and midshipmen fired a fully automatic Soviet AK-47 assault rifle.
“Understanding the capabilities of weapons on the battlefield is crucial,” said Wilkens. “If you are out of ammo, most likely you will pick up an unfamiliar weapon.”
Bagnick said that when the training week was over, he gained a new perspective on socio-political affairs in East Africa as well as an appreciation for the UPDF.
“They were incredibly apt to working with us and very receptive to different ways of training,” said Bagnick. “That helps to build the trust and friendship that we need down the line.”
In today’s contemporary military, every mission is a joint venture between multiple services, he said. It is vital to understand how those other services work together.
“Some of these countries came out of their colonial states just a few decades ago and began building their militaries,” said Bagnick. “I think they are further along than we were in our own nation’s history in terms of their ingenuity and working with others.”
The mission of CJTF-HOA is a prime example of how the military will progress in the future, he said.
“No matter what my mission is, as a future officer in the Navy, I will be able to use this trust to accomplish my duty,” Bagnick said.