CAMP JINJA, Uganda -- U.S. Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa logistics combat element trained Ugandan People’s Defense Force soldiers in an eight-week training mission at Camp Jinja, Uganda, from August to October 2017.
The training course divided into three main sections; including: civil engineering, utilities and heavy equipment operation. The course is part of an on-going partnership and cooperation between the United States and Ugandan governments.
“This training is very beneficial for the UPDF because we are teaching their forces to be able to sustain operations for their future engagements and efforts in combatting terrorism,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Desire, utilities operations chief. “Our main objective out here is to equip, train and create a level of proficiency among the UPDF soldiers and also maintain and sustain our relationship with Uganda.”
In the civil engineering section, the Marines have been able to complete both the front and rear entry control points which have helped to improve security around the camp. They have also laid the foundation in the motor pool which will be used to store the UPDF’s vehicles.
In the utilities section, the Marines conducted water purification techniques training to teach the UPDF soldiers how to decontaminate water so it is fit for consumption.
“We are currently in the midst of planning another water purification mission where we will actually purify water and distribute it to the local population,” said Desire.
Last are the Marines in the heavy equipment operation section, they have facilitated the extension of the camp’s rifle range, levelled the ground for the construction of a modern hospital and are constructing access roads to link the staff housing complex to the hospital.
The Marines had to overcome some obstacles along the way such as language barrier and pressure of not wanting to look ignorant around the students, but that didn’t deter the Marines from doing what they are known to do best; adapt and overcome any challenge.
“Everybody was just tensed and anticipated too much in the beginning and we were being robotic,” said Cpl. Victor Melendez, combat engineer instructor. “We had to build friendship with them because friendship is a universal language and that helped us to loosen up and be better at reading the students body language to make sure that they understood what we were teaching them, and that gets the job done.”
Besides the normal routine training, the Marines have also been instrumental in winning the hearts of the local community by engaging in community relations events. Such events included the Marines joining the local community members in a five and 10 Kilometer run in honor of the breast cancer awareness month.
In addition to that, they also participated in weekly soccer matches playing against the UPDF soldiers and also invited them over for weekly movie nights.
With the conclusion of the first training iteration, the Marines are confident and look forward to welcoming their new group of UPDF students in the coming weeks.