Story and Photo by Lt. Theresa Donnelly, Pacific Command Public Affairs
Posted: 21 May 2013
Some soldiers train for war, but one experienced infantryman was instead facilitating how to bring peace and stability for ten nations during Exercise Shanti Prayas-2 in Panchkhal, Nepal March 25-April 7.
"Peacekeeping is a complex mission. There are a lot of moving parts and unforeseen dangers and rules that govern what you can and cannot do. Unlike a combat mission where the rules of engagement are relatively short, peacekeeping rules are relatively complex and it's something that has to be trained," said U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Gerald Cornell, the lead field exercise planner and facilitator.
Cornell, a 27-year soldier with multiple combat deployments, participated in the two-week training exercise as part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a U.S. State Department program executed in the region by facilitators from U.S. Pacific Command and the Naval Postgraduate School. The training addressed major gaps in international peacekeeping operations. The program aims to build and maintain capability, capacity, and effectiveness of peacekeepers deploying to UN missions.
The exercise brought together service members from 23 nations to plan, coordinate and execute peacekeeping training scenarios which peacekeepers can then apply to real-world UN missions. The exercise consists of a Senior Training Seminar, staff officer training and field training.
While assigned to U.S. Army Pacific Command, Cornell became interested in this field during Exercise Cobra Gold in 2009 where a portion of the exercise included peacekeeping training. While observing the training "lane" for how to properly cordon and search an area, he shared some observations with the facilitators. Shortly after that, he was asked to officially join the GPOI team as the lead field exercise planner.
"When I started in this job, there were issues with using U.S. tactics, but after working with international subject matter experts, we are slowly getting the tactics out since every nation has their own tactics and instead we are concentrating solely on the principals of peacekeeping. We can now change not only how the platoons function, but also how the trainers function."
Cornell said the program has improved significantly because of GPOI's ability to bring in humanitarian and UN stakeholders with extensive peacekeeping experience and implement their recommendations to the training. Much of the exercise focused on what's called a "train-the-trainer" model, which involves building up a core of skilled peacekeeping professionals in GPOI nations that can then take this training back to their respective nations' peacekeeping centers to help grow future peacekeepers.
"The trainers have developed to where we did a lot of coaching and mentoring to get them to understand how to plan, resource and execute training to where they are today where they grasp the concept of training management. Every year, the exercise gets considerably better," he said.
Each day, the Nepalese Army trainers were given feedback by the GPOI facilitators on how the training objectives were met. Trainers made instant course corrections to were applied to the next day of training.
"The Nepalese Army has been absolutely fantastic. They provided us with the best training facility and the best group of soldiers to do this exercise; people who are passionate and care about what they do. They came in and absorbed everything that we've talked about," said Cornell.
Cornell said this military assignment was a particularly memorable one because of the positive impact the GPOI team can have on the participating nations.
"This has been one of the most rewarding jobs I've had as far as being able to influence such a large amount of people. Through all of this we are able to make a huge difference throughout the world for all the nations involved in peacekeeping missions," he said.