Three shots were fired, guns were reloaded and shots were repeated. It was Lt. Col. Jorge Dolmo who on the firing line, shooting and running the drill over and over on the M9 pistol, along with his fellow trainees. They were practicing quick magazine changes and the ?tap and rack? drills while being supervised by their instructors. The lessons learned from this exercise were simple but quite life-saving.
All the men and women performing the exercises on the firing line are the ones going overseas to places like the Central African Republic, Mali, Liberia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mission of these soldiers will be to support the peacekeeping initiatives of the United Nations. In order to prepare for the task, the comrades have to go through a 28-day training regimen with six of the days to spend at the Summit Point Motorsports Park receiving firearms training. They also receive intense training lessons on evasive and defensive driving.
According to Dolmo, ?This is outstanding training. My only regret is this wasn?t training available to me as a young lieutenant.?
He added, ?It?s going to be a different challenge for a lot of us in the military because we?re not used to the UN, but just like everything else, we?ll adapt. I?ve never been to sub-Saharan Africa. It?s going to be pretty cool.?
Dolmo is a logistics officer preparing to serve a six-month tour in Mali?s capital Bamako. He will serve as a logistics planner and is quite excited about the opportunity to be deployed by the United Nations.
Note that the US Military Observer group is responsible for training America service members for such tasks. The group is run by the Army. According to Lt. Col. David McGurk, the US Military Observer Group?s chief of operation, the US military fills up around 40 positions in numerous UN missions. Most of these personnel serve as staff officers or military observers.
A lot of these troops are spread over Israel, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Liberia, Haiti, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to McGurk. He added that the troops go through painstaking training and put in a lot of efforts to become part of the United Nation?s missions. This also includes wearing the blue UN on their right sleeve to show support for the international governmental organization.
In addition, the US Military Observer Group supports three American officers at the UN headquarters in the New York City. It should be noted here that most of the deployed troops are majors, captains, and lieutenant colonels. All those who are looking forward to go abroad are required to take the 28-day pre-deployment training sessions. Note that the training is held twice a year in April and October. This year April saw around 26 officers. There were 11 officers from the Army, six from the Air Force, two from the Navy and seven from the Marine Corps.
According to McGurk, ?There are a lot of requests for peacekeepers, but there isn?t a lot of peace breaking out in the world. This gives them some foundational training. If they?re out there on their own ? and there?s a threat, they can evade it.?
The six-day training sessions mentioned above are led by civilian instructors with BSR Inc. The goal is make sure the deploying service members have skills of basic driving, first aid skills and firearms. Considering the troops will be operating in small groups and no force protection, they will be definitely this training.
The instructors with BSR continuously work on improving their training and customizing it for every class.
According to Larry Connolly, the chief firearms instructor for BSR, ?We get every skill level, so we try to balance that and find that happy medium.?
McGurk further added, ?We have officers from all walks and backgrounds, so we start with the basics and work our way up.?
This customized training assists the troops in preparing for whatever they will face abroad, according to McGurk.
He added, ?The threat around the world is always changing.?
On the other hand, Lt. Col. Ben Sunds, who trained alongside Dolmo in April, said, ??The training has been good. No matter how many times you?ve done this, it?s perishable. We all always have the right to protect ourselves, and it?s not that you?re expecting trouble, but that you?re prepared.?
Sunds is a civilian affairs officer going to Mali. He will be the civil-military section chief for the UN brigade in the city of Gao.
Similarly, Liliana Molina, a Marine Major Ground supply officer, has volunteered her services for South Sudan. When asked, she said that she thoroughly enjoyed the firearms training.
?We got to do different drills that I hadn?t had a chance to do before,? she added.
According to Molina, she volunteered for the UN deployment to get the chance of working with troops from other militaries.
According to Lt. Col. Mark Loyola, the UN deployments are valuable since they broaden the horizons for military personnel. Loyola is currently half way through his 12-month deployment. He will be located as the Senior U.S. military observer in Mali.
?For one thing, there aren?t that many Army personnel that do have the UN experience,? Loyola iterated. ?It?s definitely something outside of the [Iraq and Afghanistan] model that I was accustomed to. This was a way to gain another perspective in regards to not only warfighting, but, in this model, about peacekeeping.?
?For me, it?s about developing professionally and to have different perspectives. I would definitely recommend serving on a UN mission.?