Special Operations: February 5, 2004

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In the last ten years, the most common form of warfare American troops have been involved in has been peacekeeping. In light of that, the U.S. Army and Marines are giving their troops more training for those kinds of operations. There are a lot of skills to learn. 

-Cultural Understanding. The troops have to be aware that foreigners have a lot of different customs. Not understanding these customs can lead to troops doing something unintentionally offensive. This could lead to uncooperative, hostile or even violent locals. This is not good, as the main point of peacekeeping is to pacify a hostile population. Keeping the locals in a good mood makes it easier to get information on who the troublemakers are. Just making the troops aware of the importance of Cultural Understanding is very valuable. Information on customs for a specific country are pointed out as examples during the training (Iraq and Afghanistan, naturally, come up often). When troops are alerted to deploy for a peacekeeping mission, they will get instruction and written material on the country they are headed for.

-Checkpoint Operations. This is one of the most common chores for peacekeepers and is used to control the movement of the population and collect information. There are a lot dos and donts for this kind of duty. A lot of things can go wrong and there are tried and true procedures to learn to make checkpoint duty safe and effective.

-Urban Patrolling. This is different from regular patrolling, because you will be moving through areas occupied by civilians. The purpose of the patrols is to assure the population that the peacekeepers are armed, present and ready to deal with any troublemakers. Combat troops have already had training on how to move a patrol through a built up area. But additional skills have to be learned about how to deal with civilians in the vicinity if you are suddenly attacked. The civilians are also a source of information, and tips on how best to get that are taught as well.

-Force Protection. Peacekeepers will be the targets for the people in the area who are still fighting. There are always some of those, otherwise there would be no need for peacekeepers. Up to half the troops time will be spent performing force protection duties, which is basically guarding the living quarters and work areas of the peacekeepers. There are a lot of effective procedures that have been learned over the years to make Force Protection work, and the more the troops know of these items, the less likely they are to forget something important when they get sent on peacekeeping duty.

-Convoy Operations. Moving around in vehicles can be dangerous if youre not prepared for the worst. The experience in Iraq has made that very clear. In most cases, vehicle movements will be in a convoy, and even passengers have a role to play (where to be looking while moving, where and how to direct your fire if attacked..)

-Cordon and Search. Sealing off an area and searching for weapons and other contraband are a common function for peacekeepers. This is usually done by combat troops. But in a pinch, anyone who knows how to handle a rifle can be used. There specific drills for this kind of work. These drills minimize exposure to hostile fire and get the job done with a minimum of fuss. 

Officers and NCOs get additional training on things like planning the various peacekeeping activities and dealing with local civilian leaders.

 


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