ACCRA, Ghana -- When the call comes to support United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Ghana Armed Forces regularly answer that call and are expected to set up their operations at times with little to no existing base camp infrastructure. They could be operating from the corner of an airport, a commandeered sports field or a tract of land in an undeveloped part of a jungle or desert scape – wherever peace needs reinforced.
Efficiently and logically developing base camps for deployed forces is key to any mission’s success, and that is why experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were recently in Ghana teaching courses in base camp design to Ghana Armed Forces combat engineers and planners in the Ghanaian capital of Accra.
“We covered natural disasters, humanitarian aid, border peacekeeping and combat scenarios,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District’s Michael Gerhard, who was part of the Field Force Engineering team that conducted the training in Ghana. “Many of these Soldiers have been deployed to contingency operations in areas like Mali, Sudan and other countries, and they were very interested in learning from our team and we were interested in learning from them how to translate our ideas for practical real-world use in the field.”
The training is part of the larger African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership Program which the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) leads for the U.S. Army. Through this program, U.S. forces engage with military partners in Ghana and other Partner Nations (PNs) around the continent to train them on everything from engineering capabilities to maneuvers and more to bolster their capabilities during peacekeeping and other missions on the continent.
“The APRRP program aims to provide peace stabilization forces in a short period of time and the training of African PN militaries, and specifically engineer units in this case, provides the base foundations for the modernization of those units in order to support UN peacekeeping operation (PKO) missions,” said Senior Theater Security Cooperation Officer for SETAF-AF in the Deputy Chief of Staff Engineers Directorate (DCSENG) Lt. Col Fernando A. Franco. “This also allows the USA to strengthen the cooperation and partnership with PNs on the continent. The feedback I have received from PNs is that the training provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is top quality and is contributing to advancing the UN PKO mission and the overall capabilities of the PN engineer units.”
The courses in Ghana covered the overall process of planning out a base camp, starting with the basics of what to look for when adapting a selected site, if that’s an option, to planning for what will be needed to layout and more.
“Depending on the mission and the number of people, it will determine the size of the base camp and the way you lay it out, so it makes sense. Where do you put the logistics? Where do you put the housing? Where do you put the common areas like operations, like meals, where do you put the latrines? Where do you put the trash pickup?” said Field Force Engineering Training and Exercise Manager Mitchel Glenn from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters. “It’s not just haphazard, we teach them the theory and concept as to how do you lay it out, depending on the situation what type of force protection you need when you’re building these and much more.”
Additionally, the team incorporated lessons learned from their Ghanaian counterparts in the previous training and current events to make it as relevant as possible to the Ghanaian personnel there.
“We incorporated an extra class on force protection that was developed as a result of the lessons learned from the initial training USACE conducted in Ghana back in May 2019,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Headquarters Environmental Support Team National Program Manager Arlene Weiner, who was part of the team in Ghana and has been involved in the program since that first training. “Prior to the start of this most recent training, USACE was briefed on the current missions of the GAF, which includes support to Mali at the Timbuktu site, and the 2022 training was specifically designed using sites in Ghana and Mali to give the students experience where they would likely be providing future support.”
She also added that, while planning the training, the team also took into account the recent involvement of the Ghana Armed Forces at the northern border between Ghana and Burkina Faso, where they supported missions protecting the Ghanaian border from attacks.
The training program has been going on for years and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has managed similar trainings with other armed forces in the past including in Rwanda. The program slowed down during COVID and the training in Ghana was one of the first the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team has been able to resume in person overseas since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Being able to go to Ghana and work with the military guys there made a big impact,” Gerhard said. “They were really relieved to get a lot of answers to their questions, like on how to improve on what they’ve done in past deployments. They were asking about recycling and safe disposal of spent oil from machinery and we were able to give them ideas.”
In addition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers trainers, the mission was directly supported by personnel from the, the U.S. Embassy in Accra, the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, the U.S. Army Engineering School at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade based out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
“The Ghana Armed Forces, and in general PNs in Africa that are receiving the great training provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are seeing the benefits of being part of a greater mission that supports peace keeping operations in the continent and also helps to modernize their own engineer units,” Franco said. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brings a lot of expertise about base camp master planning training and in the many years that SETAF-AF has been working with the GAF, we have also benefited from their on-the-ground knowledge resulting in a fruitful partnership.”