News: Shanti Prayas-2 prepares Nepal for upcoming UN deployments
By Lt. Theresa Donnelly
Pacific Command Public Affairs
PANCHKHAL, Nepal - With his wife currently serving a peacekeeping mission in Iraq for nine months and himself headed to Darfur in the next two weeks, Nepal army ranger Maj. Rajesh Bickram Shahi understands why peacekeeping training is an invaluable opportunity to develop skills needed in United Nations peacekeeping operations.
"Military like us, we are well trained for war fighting but peacekeeping is a very different job, a very complex job for soldiers,” said Shahi. “There are many obligations. Every peacekeeper must be aware and familiar of the situations and conditions of the mission area where he is being deployed, and moreover he must be efficient in performing his duty. Hence, trainings related to peace keeping operations are definitely lucrative and helpful.”
Shahi is one of more than 800 participants taking part in Exercise Shanti Prayas-2. The two-week peacekeeping training exercise taking place March 26-April 7 as part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, a U.S. State Department program executed in the region by facilitators from U.S. Pacific Command. The training addresses ways of bridging major gaps in international peacekeeping operations. The program aims to build and maintain capability, capacity, understanding and effectiveness of peacekeepers deploying to UN missions.
Shahi is a Nepal army trainer teaching 11 platoons how to accomplish complex tasks designed to mimic common occurrences troops encounter while on peacekeeping missions using policies set forth by the U.N.
Shahi, responsible for conducting the patrol lane, shared how the training objectives related to peacekeeping are incorporated into the patrolling exercise.
His training team included trainers Maj. Arun B. Singh and Capt. Deepa Khadka from the Nepal army, Lt. Fheli from the Jordan army, Chief Sgt. Supardi from the Indonesian army and Lt. Innocent from the Rwanda army.
“We have designed and used role-players to enhance the training by the virtue of our mission experiences, relating current challenging issues and blending the knowledge of all aspects of the training," said Shahi.
The Nepal army designed the field exercise at the Birendra Peace Operations Training Center during a two-week, train-the-trainer course held here last January. At that time, trainers created the course objectives and events with input from facilitators from PACOM.
As a major troop contributing country, Nepal and the Nepalese army have extensive knowledge and experience in peacekeeping operations, with nearly 250 soldiers involved in this exercise.
This training has vital pragmatic impacts, as many of the participants are soon deploying for a peacekeeping missions.
Of the two Nepalese platoons participating in the exercise, one is deploying to Congo and soldiers in the other platoon are headed to peacekeeping operations in Haiti and Lebanon.
The majority of the soldiers assigned to platoons from Rwanda, Mongolia, Philippines, Jordan and Paraguay have upcoming peacekeeping deployments scheduled as well. Kazakhstan has 13 participants on standby for an upcoming deployment.
At the staff training exercise 30 of the 86 participants have a peacekeeping mission later this year, with 29 others about to assume instructional roles for peacekeeping training back in their own countries.
During the field training portion of the exercise, Nepal Army soldiers including civilians acted as role-players in the various lanes. These lanes include how to properly conduct a cordon and search of an area, establish and run a checkpoint, conduct convoy and patrol operations, set up and safeguard a UN designated site, and how to properly support a humanitarian aid distribution point.
The main objective of the training is to increase participating nations’ interoperability and peacekeeping skills. These training events give participants knowledge on mission area environment, different languages, cultures, religions, and habits of the host nation.
"In peacekeeping missions, we are working with other nations and must be able to deal with different people and know their culture and give them our respect," said Shahi.
Shahi's first peacekeeping mission was as a team leader for a special forces company in Burundi in 2005. While deployed, he conducted various peacekeeping missions but as a peacekeeper, he had to operate under a different set of UN guidelines.
He said through this training exercise participants share experiences, best practices and various lessons learned which help them be best prepared for future missions.
“Peacekeeping missions nowadays are very complex and challenging and training is required to prepare our troops, so they must know what to do and respond appropriately," said Shahi.
Shahi said that another benefit of attending this training is that he can impart what he has learned and help other peacekeepers during his upcoming deployment.
“One of the key tasks of the Force Reserve Company in Darfur is to train other peacekeepers. I think I will incorporate this knowledge when I get there and conduct classes," he said.
With Shahi's upcoming deployment to Darfur, his wife deployed as a peacekeeper in Iraq and his mother-in-law caring for his son, he said it's been a tough time for his family, but the honor of serving in this capacity makes the sacrifice worth it.
"One day when my son will grow up, he'll be proud of us. Once a peacekeeper, always a peacekeeper and being a peacekeeper is a prestigious job," said Shahi.