Currently, a team of nine officers from Sweden and Finland is located in Timbuktu, Mali. The team is called “Nordic Defence Cooperation Mobile Training Team”, NORDEFCO MTT, and their mission is to train other nations’ forces that are part of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA. The training initiative is a pilot project and part of the Nordic Defence Cooperation.
“Over by the metal container – two shooters!" The soldiers from Liberia repeat the words as they practice identifying targets outside the UN’s international Super Camp in Timbuktu, Mali. The temperature reaches almost 40 degrees centigrade and the climate is far from what the Nordic officers from the Mobile Training Team, MTT, are used to. But calmly and methodically, they go through the basics while instructing the Liberian soldiers.
The officers from the MTT will train just over 400 soldiers and officers from Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Egypt during the five weeks training perdiod. The purpose of the training is to strengthen their ability as part of their daily work, for example patrols in the area or during camp defence.
“This is a joint effort between Sweden and Finland where we are assisting troop contributing countries to MINUSMA to reach and hold sufficient level of knowledge and military skills. We are training, advising and assisting soldiers to keep their skills up to date,” says Colonel Sven Hansson, head of MTT.
The purpose of the training is to supplement the pre-deployment training of other troupe contributing countries and strengthen their ability in the daily work, including patrols in the area or in their own camp defence.
“We draw lessons from their experiences”
The training that the officers are conducting usually starts with basic theory. The instructors explain in English, an interpreter is included and translates into French, and then there is time for discussion and questions. The training evolves gradually, and during the exercises the soldiers move from words to action.
“It is very fun and educational to be in Mali and educate soldiers and officers from other countries. My opinion is that they have a good knowledge and that the basics they learn in their home countries are the same as for us. Some details differ, however, so while educating them we draw lessons from their experiences,” says Captain Adam Holmström, training officer.
Some of the soldiers have been serving their countries for several years, while others are relatively new in their positions. In general, the troops show a desire to learn more.
“The education we get here is very good. We learn simple concepts that facilitate our work in Mali,” says Joshua Andrews, soldier from Liberia.
Both military and political cooperation
The Nordic Defence Cooperation, NORDEFCO, comprises both military and political level, and includes cooperation in the fields of operations, capabilities, human resources, armaments as well as education, training and exercises. The presidency rotates between the Nordic countries, and for 2019, the presidency is held by Sweden. NORDEFCO MTT is currently a pilot project and the outcome and experiences will affect how the education will be conducted in the future. While it is too early to jump to conclusions, both representatives from Sweden and Finland can see great advantages with the joint training effort.
“We make big difference in a short time. Everyone here works towards the same goal and it is very positive to work with officers from Sweden. It strengthens our Nordic defence cooperation and together with the other nations in MINUSMA we work together for peace in Mali,” says Lieutenant Colonel Niko Petteri, deputy commander.