ECOWAS Multilateral Military Field Training Exercise Ends
Monday, May 03, 2010
The one-week multilateral and multidisciplinary major Field Training Exercise aimed at validating the Eastern Battalion of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) ended in Ketou, Benin Republic yesterday, with Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff and chairman of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike declaring it “a huge success.”
Also, President of ECOWAS Commission, Mr Victor Gbehu, who watched the closing ceremony along with the Minister of Interior and Security Affairs of Benin Republic, Mr Armand Zinzindohoue also said that all the officers and soldiers involved in the exercise displayed “the highest form of professionalism.” Code-named EXERCISE COHESION Benin 2010, the exercise is geared towards evaluating the operational and logistics readiness of the Eastern Battalion of the ECOWAS Stand-by Force spearheaded by Nigeria, is part of the overall preparation for the operationalisation of the African Standby force by December 2010.
The troop contributing countries to the exercise include Nigeria, Benin Republic, Togo, Sierra Leone and elements of the Mission Planning Management Cell (MPMC) and the ESF headquarters staff. It was articulated around two battle groups of infantry, light cavalry, engineers, Air Force units, naval forces, police and gendarmes units.
Its specific objectives include testing the ESF concept and Standing Operational Procedure (SOP), evaluating the deployment of the Eastern Battalion Task Force in the field, testing communication and information system resources, improving the interoperability and intra-operability between the subunits and within the various staff cells and to identify areas of shortfall for necessary improvement. Mr Gbehu noted that the success of the exercise “assures me that there is cohesion and a great deal of hope for a secure and prosperous ECOWAS sub-region. The military in ECOWAS member States have achieved a high level of professionalism and have excelled in all assignments given to them. Therefore, we must promote investment in security since peace is a sine-qua-non for a prosperous future.”
He commended Nigeria for the lead role it played in the exercise including the airlifting of 128 troops of the Sierra Leonean Army, “which enabled them to participate.” Nigeria contributed about 530 officers and men to the exercise including heavy haulage trucks, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), Hilux trucks, buses, petrol and water tankers, ambulances and other operational vehicles.
Air Chief Marshal Dike told journalists after the troop and motorised match past and parade of the participating nations that “the exercise was a huge success as it met the objectives. The aim was to build the ESF into a robust, rapid-response outfit that can effectively support regional peace initiatives. We hope that the ECOWAS Standby Force will maximise the opportunity of this exercise to address some of its logistics and operational challenges. Furthermore, the exposure should fine-tune our readiness especially in the areas of standardisation of training and equipment for the various constituents of the ESF. Hopefully, the outcome will impact positively on our collective efforts to improve security in the region.”
But Dike asserted that for the Standby Force to have the teeth needed, “there must be clear rules of engagement for future operations. Also the each Contingent should be able to bring their own equipment. And English speaking West Africans must learn to speak French. The French speaking West Africans are better at learning English than we are of French. This has to change. We need to work together to have element of communication in place.” The final activities of the military exercise was attended by being attended by ECOWAS Defence Chiefs, Commanders of United Nations operations in Liberia (UN Mission in Liberia – UNMIL) and Cote de’Ivoire (UN Operations in Cote de-Ivoire and the Commander of French Forces in Dakar, Senegal and Cape Vert.
Altogether, the ECOWAS Standby Force consists of a Task Force and a Main Force. The Task Force, composed of 2773 personnel from the predetermined units including 200 police personnel, consists of a Headquarters, two Infantry Battalions (West and East) and a Logistics battalion.On order, the Task Force is to deploy within 30 days and be self sustained for 90 days.
The West ESF Battalion, led by Senegal, with membership of Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry and Gambia, was evaluated during the joint Senegal/France field training exercise held in December 2007.
The Logistics battalion, led by Mali and Nigeria as second-in-command, with additional membership of Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal, was validated in Burkina Faso in June 2009.
The Eastern Battalion, led by Nigeria, with additional membership from Benin Republic, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo, is being validated with the current exercise.
The Main Force of the ESF, when fully operational, will consist of 3783 troops and would be prepared to deploy within 90 days and be self sustaining for 90 days. In effect, it will complement the ESF Task Force, which is a rapid deployment capability outfit.