Central Southern AfricaMissions OperationsReport

Report in Bangui. 1. At Camp Kassaï, FACA training is progressing at a good pace

(BRUSSELS2 – in Bangui) Obstacle crossing, hand-to-hand combat, shooting, assembly and disassembly of your weapon, topographical orientation, first aid… these are some of the training that the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) receive from the European mission training EUTM RCA. They will have to demonstrate that they have acquired this training this Friday, November 3, during a first test (1). Visiting Bangui, B2 was able to attend the latest training and preparations.

First step: the sandbox 

At 8 a.m., the first European instructors arrived at Camp Kassaï. Despite the rain, the meeting point with the FACA officers is the “sandbox”. It is here, in a very graphic manner, that the Europeans explain the exercise in its entirety to the lieutenant who leads one of the companies of Battalion 3. Having attended the Coëtquidan school (2012-2015), lieutenant Ulrich Yamande quickly understands the nature of the trials by which his men will be tested. It is now up to him to take charge of the rest, giving instructions to those who will lead the platoons (10-12 men). In order to motivate them, the groups are placed in a competitive situation. The unit with the best score over all 12 events will be the winner. Are at stake « the pride of winning, but also a “small” prize », Explains the Spanish colonel, Antonio R. Bernal Martín, who commands the training pillar (“Training“).

The captain gives instructions to his men under the supervision of EUTM instructors. The “sandbox” allows the FACA to resituate a movement situation (© LH/B2)

Know how to orient

This is perhaps the most difficult test for Central African soldiers. The first question of the questionnaire for today's test illustrates this well. “What are contour lines used for on a map? » And for good reason, few of them had handled a topographical map before arriving in Kassaï. Today, compass in hand, they must give the azimuth of three points that the instructor has pointed out to them. For the most part, it's successful. The smile, often discreet, that they give each other shows their satisfaction.

(© LH/B2)

…and travel in a group

Next test: move in a group. Like a test of team-building, it is an obstacle course that the Europeans have chosen to climb… with added difficulty. The route must be crossed carrying a five-kilo box, theoretically containing mortar shells. The unit that I am quickly chooses its strategy. Whoever is in the best shape will carry the crate. In first position is placed one of the youngest, armed. He must be the first to cross each obstacle and ensure safety on the other side. The unit leader, who should position himself in the middle of his team, chooses to close the line, in order to accompany one of his soldiers injured in the knee. Finally, after a few errors, they finished the course in 11 minutes... far from the 7 minutes 30 set as their goal. “ For Friday's test, they will be ready » says the French instructor in charge of the workshop. “ The other groups all did better » whispers to me, in English, the Swede who accompanies him.

Learn to fight… with weapons and bare hands

To be a real soldier, you have to have weapons. It is therefore logical that EUTM trains the FACA in shooting. However, resources are limited. “ They must learn to take care of their weapons. » This is why one of the tests is the dismantling and assembly of an AK-47. To succeed, you have to do it in less than five minutes. Few weapons and also few ammunition. For today's exercise, only two people per team shot. And each only had ten cartridges. But the FACA must also know how to confront attackers using bladed weapons (knife or cutter). Objective: defend yourself but also neutralize the enemy.

(© LH/B2)

…with respect for human rights

The Europeans insist on this. " Neutralize not kill ". This is one of the key elements, forming an army that respects international law, whether in their interactions with armed prisoners or civilians. This is human rights expert Cynthia Petrigh of the company Beyond Peace, who is responsible for explaining the rules of war.

First aid: leave no one behind

Evacuating an injured person while ensuring area protection, establishing the best place to give first aid, making a tourniquet... This is an essential element of European training. Especially since this is not natural for the FACA. “ For them, when someone is hurt, they are left behind... because they carry an evil spirit within them. During the first exercises, most refuse to touch the people who play the injured » explains Barothi Hambursin. This Belgian uses her own experience, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, to ​​demonstrate how a few seconds can make a difference and save a life. A more general challenge then appears, that of time management. " They don't have a watch She says.

Proud FACAs

The soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers I have met all have one thing in common. They are proud to belong to the FACA, and even more to be in one of the battalions trained by EUTM.

…despite difficult conditions 

It rained until daybreak, at 5am. The roads, invaded by currents of water, then stagnant water, are difficult to pass. Despite this, some got up before dawn to come to the camp. They did between 10 and 20 km. Often on foot… because their salary does not allow them to take motorbike taxis. Although everyone wears military uniforms, no two are alike. On their feet, some have boots, others original red, green or blue sneakers. And for good reason, the Ministry of Defense did not provide them with equipment. What they wear, they bought themselves. EUTM, which does not have the right to provide this material, is working to find a donor. For the certification ceremony of the battalion as a whole, in December, the personnel of BIT 1 could wear uniforms (and equipment) provided… by China!

(Leonor Hubaut)

To be continued…

(1) Three companies make up Battalion 3 (BIT3). Each goes to Camp Kassaï, the EUTM RCA training camp, for three months of training. After six months, only two companies will be put to the test this week. Final certification for the entire battalion is scheduled for December.

Leonor Hubaut

© B2 - Bruxelles2 is a French online media that focuses on political Europe (powers, defence, foreign policy, internal security). It follows and analyzes developments in European policy, unvarnished and without concessions. Approved by the CPPAP. Member of SPIIL. Please quote "B2" or "Bruxelles2" in case of recovery Leonor Hubaut is a journalist. Graduated in international relations from the Free University of Brussels (specialization in globalization). She covers for B2 the work of the European Parliament, CSDP missions and African issues. Sahel specialist.