One hundred and forty eight officers of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) have completed a 10-week long special operations course covering emergency first aid, communication, land navigation, vehicle maintenance, rifle marksmanship and IED detection.
The course drills were held at the Uganda Peace Support Operations Training Centre by a team of US Army Marines drawn from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Africa (SPMAGTF) in Sigonella, Italy.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the team at the training centre in Nakaseke district, UPDF deputy chief of Logistics and Engineering Brigadier Augustine Kyazze said such training programmes are aimed at professionalising the army and should be complemented by the acquisition of high-tech weapons and equipment.
“We cannot have a professional army if it is not trained and equipped. This training will improve the abilities of the UPDF. In the 21st century, nothing is free of charge. We are lucky to have friends who can provide such training,” said Kyazze. He added the training was part of a process of moulding the country’s next generation of military leaders.
Major Gregory Dunay, team leader of the US Marines said the training would strengthen the UPDF and urged the soldiers to share the skills they learnt with fellow members of the army who did not get the chance to attend the training.
He said the recent attack in the Kenyan capital Nairobi by Somalia’s al-Shabaab Islamist militant movement, which killed more than 67 people in a four-day siege of an upmarket shopping mall, calls for heightened vigilance against terror by all armies in the region. “The world is not short of people who want to kill innocent people in your villages or our homes. It’s up to you the righteous ones to stand up to that challenge,” Dunay said.
The conclusion of the training programme comes one month after the US Army, through its Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Consequence Management Assistance Program (CMAP) and US Africom’s Disaster Preparedness Programme, concluded the training of 12 elite Ugandan security personnel on how to detect and deal with threats posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The specialised course, which is the first of its kind in Africa, also focused on securing biological materials, radiological substances, hazardous chemicals and nuclear weapons material.
Security officers drawn from the army and the police were trained in the use of personal protective equipment, material sampling, incident command systems, victim evacuation, de-contamination procedures and how to respond to hazardous waste spills.