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"Borinqueneers" from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa opened the doors to its seventh Counter Terrorism Course for the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UDPF) at the Kasenyi Military Training center this summer.
The four-month course, being taught by "Borinqueneer" Soldiers from the 1/65th Infantry Battalion of the Puerto Rico National Guard, will end this month.
According to historical records, the men of the 1/65th came up with the nickname "Borinqueneer" during a long sea voyager while serving in the Korean War. It is a combination of the words Buccaneers and Boriquen, which is the name the Tainos Indians called Puerto Rico before the arrival of the Spaniards.
This is not the first time the 1/65th IN BN has been deployed to Africa. They were first deployed during to North Africa during World War II in 1943. A year later, they moved forward from Casablanca, Morocco to Italy and then France to join the 3rd Battalion and defeated Germany's 34th Infantry Division's 107th Infantry Regiment.
About 66 years later, the 1/65th IN BN is once again deployed to Africa. This time, they are deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti to support the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's mission to foster regional stability, build security capacity, and forge relationships with our African partner nations.
In July, the 1/65th IN BN open the doors to teach the counter terrorism course for the first time in Africa. During the course the instructors and assistant instructors from the UPDF will partner to share their knowledge and skills with the UPDF student soldiers to help the UPDF develop counter terrorism practices to increase peace and security in Uganda, said Sgt. 1st Class Heriberto Crespo CJTF-HOA Counter Terrorism Course non-commissioned officer in charge.
Before deploying, most of the instructors received additional training in Puerto Rico to become instructors and some have experience mentoring Afghani soldiers during the unit's previous deployment to Afghanistan.
"It's a great experience to be able to mentor the UPDF students by giving them the knowledge I have as an infantryman," said Spc. Jose Alicea, a 1st Platoon instructor. "It's a great feeling knowing you're able to help someone be more proficient at their job. I'm not only teaching them, I'm also learning from them as I see their progress."
The course is taught using UPDF equipment, supplies and weapons used by the Soldiers to perform their duties. The instructors received additional training on the AK-47 rifle used during the course. Pvt. Kamba Boaz, UPDF soldier and 1st Platoon assistant instructor, works with the instructors and helps keep communication flowing during the classes.
"It's a very good opportunity for me because I am learning more and have the opportunity to bring my skills to the training," said Boaz. "Working with the men from the 1/65th (IN BN) from Puerto Rico is the most wonderful thing. They are good friends. They are real professionals. Through our friendship, we are able to learn more from them and they are able to learn more from us."
Before the students start learning counter terrorism techniques, they will learn basic soldier skills during the first eight weeks of training. Some of the skills include individual movement, map reading, land navigation, first aid, search techniques, improvised explosive devices recognition, HIV prevention and human rights. Once these skills are mastered, the students will progress to squad operations and learn to work as a team.
Each squad is made up of nine soldiers. During this section of the training they will learn to move as a team to maneuver through danger areas and identify details as a group. Supervised by the instructors, the students practice these skills in training scenarios called training lanes.
Using the standard operating procedures the students are evaluated to ensure they understand the basic skills before moving to the second phase of the course Military Operation Urbanized Terrain training.
"We train to standards not to time," said Crespo. "We will take as much time as needed until each student performs to standard. We move as fast as the slowest soldier and the training platoons move forward at the same time."
The course is divided up into four platoons of 40 students each having four to five instructors and an assistant instructor. The training is progressing at a steady pace as the UPDF students are fast learners and some have already faced combat in the Congo, said Crespo. Despite the language barriers and slow supply lines the students are motivated to learn.
"Both students and instructors face the challenge of English as a second language," said Crespo. "We all understand English, but we add different accents to the language. After about three weeks, we were able to understand each others accents and now we are sharing languages. Many of the students are learning our language, Spanish."
The instructors anticipate the MOUT training to start sometime in late October. The UPDF leaders have asked the CJTF-HOA to provide the students with realistic training. The 1/65th instructors have created a MOUT site to resemble an urban environment similar to a Ugandan village.
"Terrorist don't fight in the open with soldiers," said Crespo. "They attack cities, hospitals, churches, schools, urban areas with innocent people. That's where terrorists attack. We will build a MOUT site resembling a city in Uganda and train the UPDF students to detect and respond to terrorist attacks."
These instructors from the 1/65th are the tip of the spear for their unit. The course is expected to finish later this year and will end with a graduation ceremony attended by UPDF and CJTF-HOA military leaders.
Successful completion of this course will open doors for similar training opportunities for the 1/65th IN BN with CJTF-HOA's African partners throughout the Horn of Africa, said Crespo.