By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane Combined Joint Task Force -- Horn of Africa Public AffairsNovember 28, 2011
EMBAKASI, Kenya -- Nineteen Kenyan Army engineers from multiple units finished a five-day civil affairs field training exercise at the Amani Peace Operations Training Village in Embakasi, Kenya, recently.
The Soldiers participated in a series of scenarios designed and implemented by an instruction team made up of seven engineers from the Kenyan Army and facilitated by five U.S. Army Soldiers from the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion attached to Combined Joint Task Force -- Horn of Africa. The exercise covered topics such as key leader engagements, assessing village structures and settling tribal disputes.
"We train hard, so we can fight easy. This training is important, especially now because our army is deploying," said Lieutenant Kenneth Rujema, a Kenyan Army engineer previously trained in civil affairs. "We need to have good relations between civilians and military so that commanders on the ground can focus on operations."
The training was focused on Kenyans communicating with one another to navigate various difficult civil affairs scenarios.
"It is important for our Soldiers to know how to interact with civilians and know how to approach permissive, hostile and uncertain environments," Rujema said.
The week of practical exercise followed two weeks of civil affairs class room instruction aimed at preparing the Kenyan Soldiers for situations that may occur during deployment missions.
"In the class, it's all theoretical on paper. Out here it's nerves and reaction; that's what counts when you're on a mission," said U.S. Army Captain Enilda Flores-Cabrera, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion training team chief and mission commander. "When you get to the practical, you see how people are actually going to react, how people are going to conduct themselves."
"Civil Affairs is important in every climate," said Flores-Cabrera. "We use negotiation, mediation and assessment to get a better understanding how to approach the issues, how we can solve it and how we can help."
Local Kenyan civilians were employed as role players to act out the scenarios at the training village. This helped simulate the unpredictability and uncertainty of actual civil affairs missions.
"The actors were very important to the training," said Flores-Cabrera. "They made each situation as authentic as possible."
After the weeklong training, Kenyan Army engineer Nyambane Ezra said he would be able to employ this training in real-world situations.
"I learned about communication techniques to build relationships and gain the confidence of civilians," said Ezra. "The tools of communication assist us in undertaking operations."
After finishing the practical exercise, the Kenyan and American Soldiers traveled to Thika, Kenya, where the students used their knowledge to engage in real civil affairs missions with the local population.