FORT POLK, La. — The Joint Readiness Training Center prepares Soldiers for war. To do that, an enormity of resources, personnel, equipment and preparation must be secured to facilitate realistic, relevant training.
The United States military is fortunate that it has combat training centers to conduct such training, but many partner nations around the globe have only fledgling facilities (or none at all). The Ugandan People’s Defense Force is trying to change that by improving its own CTC, and the JRTC is the model for that change.
A group of 19 personnel from the UPDF participated in rotation 17-05, with 15 serving as the battalion headquarters and four serving as first-time guest OCTs, or observer/coach/trainers.
In addition to coaching their team, these four are taking notes as they experience a rotation from a different angle — one that will help Uganda improve its CTC.
“We will see how they (the JRTC) conduct training to prepare for future missions. This is what we are doing here,” said Col. Maximus Gumisiriza, one of the four UPDF personnel operating in an OCT capacity for the rotation. “We have (people) here so they can learn how to be OCTs, see the rotation in a different light, and understand how to focus on doctrine and training objectives.”
As the battalion headquarters group established its battle rhythm in the training area called “the box” March 17, the UPDF OCTs began to see how the JRTC village facilities and roleplayers impact training.
“It brings in such reality,” said UPDF OCT Lt. Col. Saad Katemba. “The agencies involved in role play — police, government, citizens — create a realism because they are playing their roles very well, (communicating) their feelings and values.”
Katemba said the Ugandan government doesn’t have a training center with the level of infrastructure and support the way it is here, but his hope is that they will understand the need for it.
“This type of (facility) would fill a lot of training gaps,” he said. “We can see here that it works.”
Staff Sgt. Jason Lieber, 101st Airborne Division Regionally Aligned Forces, is a lead trainer for the UPDF team. He assisted the group from Uganda with their training objectives.
“They are learning more than how to conduct multi-force operations,” said Lieber.
“They are learning how to develop their combat training center in Uganda. They believe the region (currently facing refugee and rebel crises) can change and they want to be a part of that change.”
Master Sgt. Xiengkone Vongkoth, U.S. Army Africa, said, “This team is eager and willing to learn. They want to update their own tactics, techniques and procedures based on what they observe here during training.”
During the battle-planning phase of the rotation, Vongkoth said the team needed little guidance.
“They are very independent, knowledgeable and eager to learn more,”he said.
The hard-charging work ethic of the UPDF was noticeable, according to Lieber.
“They are extremely motivated. All they want to do is work — they even ask for extra time to work. When we tell them it’s time for lunch, they ask for another 20 minutes to finish up,” said Lieber.
“I’m very impressed with what they are doing.”
Capt. Daniel Specter, 101st RAF, is also coaching the UPDF during the rotation and equally impressed with their progress.
“They are doing incredibly well. Some of their thought processes are a little different but they clearly bring a seasoned, experienced approach to any task,” said Specter.
“Their biggest take away (from the rotation) is seeing how a CTC is operated and how a rotation is run so they can shape their own program.”
Having a robust CTC in Africa would benefit many other African partners, but the Ugandans are taking the lead.
“They have some bad people in that area,” said Specter. “They (the UPDF) do a lot of the heavy lifting for us in Africa, so this is important for everyone.”
The U.S. Army Africa G3/5/7, Col. Clint Kirk, presented certificates of appreciation to the entire UPDF team March 11 for participating in the rotation.
He said the rotation not only served as an example of CTC and OCT operations, it also marked a beginning for the next phase of the Army’s RAF mission in Uganda, and the fact that they are paired up with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum is no accident.
“The UPDF is partnering with the 1st BCT, 10th Mtn Div because they will be the RAF for 2018, for security operations and more (The 101st Abn Div is the current RAF). This rotation is the start for that partnership,” said Kirk.
“We are working closely with the Ugandans because they have a very good military and expressed an interest in (further) developing their own CTC. We’re working to help them with that, and what better way than to show our own JRTC, our Army’s premiere training center? We will help them expand their (training), and thereby help contribute to the overall security in Africa.”