FIVE HILLS TRAINING AREA, Mongolia -The Mongolian Armed Forces hosted a United Nations peacekeeping field-training exercise June 14 to 28 at Five Hills Training Area, Mongolia, as part of Khaan Quest 2018.
The purpose of Khaan Quest is to gain U.N. training and certification for multi-national participants through the conduct of realistic peace-support operations, to include increasing and improving U.N. peacekeeping operations interoperability and military relationships among the participating nations.
Alaska Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Oliver Meza, field-training exercise lead, said the training began with academics, which taught service members representing the seven participating nations U.N. doctrine such as protection of civilians, personal code of conduct, rules of engagement and escalation of force.
Meza said instructor staff comprised representatives from several participating nations. Each instructor attended a two-week U.N. Global Peace Operation Initiative train-the-trainer course at different locations throughout the world.
"Primarily, we're teaching peacekeeping principles," Meza said. "We provide a class prior to the lane-execution exercise - an entire day of peacekeeping principles - so each platoon has a basic peacekeeping knowledge before they begin the exercise."
The events were spread across the training area with nations rotating in a round-robin fashion. Training included protection of civilians, convoy operations, counter improvised-explosive device operations, presence patrol, distribution of humanitarian goods, checkpoint operations, crowd control and protection of a U.N. designated site.
The U.S. fielded two platoons during the exercise, one from the Alaska Army National Guard's 297th Regional Support Group and another from the U.S. Marine Corps' 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan.
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force platoon leader 2nd Lt. Seiga Kudo said he relished working with other nations during the exercise.
"This is a rare opportunity to get the experience and skill of multiple countries," Kudo said. "We get to share a lot of information, and that is a very good thing."
Meza said the exercise trained and tested peacekeeping skills that are quite different from the conventional warfare and counter-insurgency skillsets most of the attendees normally train for.
"There's the old saying, 'Hearts and minds,' and that's the foundation of peacekeeping principles,'" Meza said. "(There are) a lot of negotiations prior to any ... kinetic force to accomplish the mission."
The sergeant said training wasn't the only dimension of Khaan Quest that added to units' peacekeeping capabilities. The nation's hosted cultural events during the evenings showcasing their heritage.
"These cultural events allow students, instructors and command teams to come together for one reason, and that's to learn about each other's culture," Meza said. "When those events are conducted, you see the benefits of such cultural events out on the lanes. There's an understanding and a respect for other countries and other cultures, and it bridges that communication barrier very well."
Meza said operating at the Five Hills Training Area provides the multi-national participants a unique opportunity to operate in an unfamiliar environment.
"(A benefit is) units that don't usually have the opportunity to train in such a dynamic training area," he said. "It allows them the opportunity to do something different that's challenging and rewarding outside of their normal training facilities."