News Article

Gibraltar officers take on Senegal training task

A People In Defence news article

30 May 08

A team of Officers from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment have been in Senegal this week teaching the techniques of Brigade and Battlegroup operational planning to Senegalese officers. Report by Danny Chapman.

Captain Daniel Romero

Captain Daniel Romero from RG briefs a Senegalese soldier
[Picture: MOD]

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment (RG), due primarily to their geographical location at the southern tip of Europe and directly next to the African continent, have undertaken various training exercises with countries in north and west Africa for some years.

Captain David King, one of the Regiment's Officers who deployed to Senegal, explained:

"It gives us a great deal of positive defence diplomacy in Africa and by training the Armed Forces from countries that form part of the African Union, it helps African armies help themselves to solve their own problems."

The request for the RG Officers to come to Senegal came about from the Senegalese Chief of Defence staff. He had recently been on operations and said that every time he's deployed somewhere it's been a British Commander, or an African Officer Commanding who had been trained by the British Army. Greatly impressed by what he saw he wanted his own soldiers to have the same benefits of experience passed on to them.

Major Andrew Bonfante, Major Ivor Lopez, Captain David King and Captain Daniel Romero from the RG accepted the invitation and went to Senegal for two weeks. The first week was spent planning and tailoring the course specific to the Senegalese requirements, and the second week consisted of the course itself.

Course photo in Senegal

The RG Officers with their students outside Sengal's School of Infantry
[Picture: MOD]

The aim was to teach 26 students with the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel and Major, Brigade and Battle Group operational planning.

There was a wide variety of experience among the students, explained Captain King, with some having undertaken training at other staff colleges in West Africa, and some having spent time in British, American and French staff colleges:

"The course went much better than we expected," he said. "We had low expectations on how successful the course would be because we were initially told that all the students spoke French, but no English. However when we got there we managed to overcome the language barriers and most of them spoke pretty good English."

The key things the four RG officers taught the Senegalese officers were the Combat Estimate, used by Battle Groups, and the Formal Estimate used at Brigade level (the estimates being the analysis of factors on the battlefield and planning the best course of action) as well as the orders process (the delivery of the orders decided at the estimate phase down to those who will execute them, allowing everyone enough time to prepare).

At the end of the course Captain King explained:

"They were given Brigade level problems to deal with which they planned well for and were all up to a pretty good standard."

Major Andrew Bonfante

Major Andrew Bonfante from RG teaching enemy doctrine to officers in Senegal
[Picture: MOD]

Other activities the RG have undertaken in Africa include, for the last eight years an annual training exercise with the Moroccan Armed Forces. This involves around 150-200 members of the Regiment as well as 200 RAF personnel who bring around six air frames:

"There is a benefit to us in this exercise on three counts," said Captain King. "First there is the defence diplomacy. We now have a very good relationship with the Moroccan Armed Forces.

"Secondly from a land perspective, the arid hot and rugged terrain is a similar environment to Iraq and Afghanistan so it is of great benefit to our troops to train there and, thirdly, it is of great benefit to the RAF who also benefit from getting used to the environmental conditions similar to Iraq and Afghanistan."

While the RG are tied to Gibraltar and don't deploy on operations as a whole Regiment, their members are regularly deploying as small section attachments to other units in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Other African exercises have included, since 2006, twice yearly visits to Gambia where the RG have been conducting peace and support operation training and they have also sent people to support the British Military Advisory Training Team who are permanently based in Nigeria.

RGR Officers in Senegal

Captain David King, Major Andrew Bonfante, Major Ivor Lopez, Captain Daniel Romero
[Picture: MOD]

Speaking about his experience of training the Senegalese, Captain King added:

"On a personal note I was a bit concerned that being a lowly Captain, the Lt Colonels and Majors I was expected to teach would put a barrier down and not accept my training. But they were all very receptive and very on side and willing to accept everything I could teach them. And they were very friendly.

"We are used to working with the Gambians, who are all very professional but have little infrastructure as they are a small country. We came with pre-conceived prejudices that it would be the same in Senegal, but they are a much larger country with much larger Armed Forces who are more used to doing things at Brigade level."

The RG are going back to Gambia in October and in the same month will be undertaking their yearly training exercise with the Moroccans. It is also very likely they will be going back to Senegal, according to Captain King:

"A one week course can only really scratch the surface and they have requested we come back and do a two or three week course next year which we'd be very happy to accept."

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