Army Chief Says Troops Trained for Peacekeeping
BOSTON — AS they patrol the streets of Haiti, US troops will have to make constant decisions about who is friendly, where danger lies, and how aggressive they should be to fulfill the complex mission of Operation Restore Democracy. It's a situation that does not have the clarity of a Desert Storm battlefield - but it is something the Army is well-trained for all the same, insists the service's top general.
Army combat units no longer focus solely on preparing for all-out warfare. Training centers in both Europe and the United States now run units through peacekeeping scenarios, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan at a meeting with Monitor editors and reporters.
Lessons learned from the Army's experience in Somalia, Rwanda, and even the Los Angeles riots have already been incorporated in this training and in Army doctrine. ``We've changed the Army in significant ways since the cold war,'' claimed General Sullivan.
At the Army's Ft. Polk, La., training center, units run through peacekeeping ``vignettes,'' such as determining whether figures in a suddenly stopped car are friend or foe. The Army's major European training base at Hohenfels, Germany, now has a large mock city and a fictitious country named ``Danubia'' where units practice dealing with ethnic factions, police, and even TV reporters.
One lesson learned bitterly in Somalia is that friends can become foes overnight in peacekeeping situations. ``You have to have people sitting around a table saying, `Wait a minute, what patterns are we seeing here?','' Sullivan said. ``You have to have your head in the game.''
Another peacekeeping tip the Army picked up in Somalia, and in Rwanda, is the utility of nongovernmental relief organizations (NGOs), such as Oxfam and World Vision, at technical humanitarian operations like providing fresh water, he said. The Army recently ran a large peacekeeping exercise at Ft. Polk that involved thousands of troops, many NGOs, and US diplomat.