Practice makes perfect: AMISOM officers prove ready to lead

Military officers from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troop contributing countries put their training to the test during a Command Post Exercise (CPX) Feb. 29 through March 3, as the last step of an AMISOM staff officers course in Nairobi, Kenya.



By Thornton, Katherine M. Staff Sgt. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Stuttgart, Germany Mar 09, 2016
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Military officers from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troop contributing countries put their training to the test during a Command Post Exercise (CPX) Feb. 29 through March 3, as the last step of an AMISOM staff officers course in Nairobi, Kenya.  

For the 29 officers from Kenya, Burundi and Uganda, this exercise culminated their five-week training and proved they’re ready to serve at AMISOM headquarters in Somalia or any of the six sectors’ command staffs.

“(The CPX) exercises the whole battle-staff,” said Jon Dahms, U. S. Africa Command deputy chief for Public Affairs and course mentor. “They have to respond as they would on the battlefield.”

At the beginning of the course, the officers were split into six main directorates necessary for successful military operations: logistics and personnel, intelligence, public information, civil affairs, military operations, and command leadership.

“Before the exercise, (students) had to come up with a course of action,” said U.S. Army Capt. Erik Buendia, 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion CA team chief and course mentor. “They’ve done mission analysis and come up with courses of action, and they’ve created and developed operational orders.”

Throughout the five weeks, they slowly progressed to working with each other as one staff and demonstrated their enhanced communication skills in this final test.

“Now they’re seeing how their operations order is evolving,” Buendia said. “With the stressful scenarios and situations occurring, (they’re) seeing how the battlefield is changing, and they’re reacting to the change.”

Exercise scenarios became increasingly difficult as the week progressed, but all of the simulations originated from previous real-world Al-Shabaab activity and attacks, which gave the leaders the most realistic assessment in a controlled environment.

“We observe the way they handle stress, the way they work together, the way they adapt, and see if, as a staff, they can overcome the obstacles that are thrown at them,” Buendia said.

One testament of their hard work was a practice press conference, testing the public information officers’ ability to prepare the conference, media and staff.

“If we can give them the best training possible, they’ll be prepared for what they face,” Dahms said. 

In addition, it tested the other directorate officers’ ability to answer questions accurately, confidently and without revealing sensitive military information. After just one day, the officers accomplished the task.

“(The CPX is) a way to put them through scenarios in a controlled environment, so they get exposure to it,” Buendia said. “There’s no right answer to the test. It’s more to enhance their confidence, and it has.”

By the fourth day, the team operated like a well-oiled machine. Students worked together to virtually neutralize threats and attacks, and ultimately met their goal, proving they’re ready to successfully lead operations at AMISOM headquarters.

“(They received) real reports based on situations that have actually occurred in Somalia,” said Dahms. “So whatever they face here, they could potentially face there, and they’ll be prepared.”

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