About 300 soldiers gathered in an auditorium recently to watch a documentary on the history of the nation’s famed peacekeeping unit, the Garuda Contingent, which was first deployed to the Congo during that nation’s civil war in 1957.
The soldiers’ faces looked eager as they watched scenes showing Indonesian troops in foreign lands — distributing water, playing with children, negotiating with disputing parties and driving tanks in the snow.
Members of the audience, soldiers from the Army’s 14th Zeni (Engineering) Battalion in Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta, cheered during one scene, when Garuda peacekeepers embraced their loved ones before leaving for overseas.
After watching the documentary, the soldiers then heard a briefing delivered by a recruiter for the contingent, Col. Almuchalif Suryo. The colonel, a military observer during a previous Garuda deployment, warned them of the “difficult and dangerous” duties facing peacekeepers.
The dangers and challenges warrant higher pay for troops assigned to the contingent: about Rp 10 million (US$1,070) a month, at least three times their monthly current wage.
Almuchalif told aspiring peacekeepers to be prepared for the psychological and English-language tests that would be held next month.
The recruitment session was one of several held by the Indonesian Peacekeeping Center (IPC), widely known by its Indonesian acronym PMPP.
Whenever the government commits to a UN peacekeeping operation, the TNI is tasked with determining the needs of the mission before the PMPP recruits members.
Brig. Gen. Imam Edy Mulyono, the chief of PMPP, recently told The Jakarta Post that the TNI troops who did not meet requirements included those found to be too “aggressive” for peacekeeping. He denied that TNI members with friends in high places would be favored for the missions.
“We try to pick the best candidates, not because they are close to their superiors or have family connections with military officers. The recruitment method is very professional,” Imam said at his office in the TNI headquarters compound in Cilangkap, East Jakarta.
Applicants who pass the tests are sent for four weeks of training at the new Peacekeeping Center, located on a 236-hectare plot of land, in Sentul, West Java. The trainees are also given driving instruction, as they are likely to drive on the right side of the road during their missions, unlike as in Indonesia.
One part of the center features a simulated village, which includes a “blue line” separating disputed areas, a firing range and a road for patrol practice. Field practice only takes one week while the remainder of the four-week training is mostly comprised of classroom sessions led by professional mentors in peace studies.
Although Indonesia has the biggest peacekeeper training center in Southeast Asia, the center still needs more vehicles and other instructional equipment.
“A lack of equipment is one problem in training our future peacekeepers. If we need, for instance, an Anoa armored personnel carrier, we must borrow it from [other] platoons,” Imam said.
Another problem is language skills, a vital tool for peacekeepers in their daily work. Imam was optimistic that the troops’ problems with English, at least, would soon be solved after the completion of the language laboratory in Sentul.
As the leader of PMPP, Imam aims to upgrade the quality of the country’s peacekeepers, as Indonesia is among the top 20 countries that contribute troops UN missions in war-zones. More officers were needed, he said, to fill in strategic positions.
He cited Norway, which had reduced its troop commitment to peacekeeping operations in favor of focusing on providing officers.
Imam said Indonesia aimed to send 4,000 soldiers on peacekeeping missions by 2014, including more experts. The PMPP, he added, had sent several officers overseas for training to become military observers.
Pre-core development module:
• United Nations system
• Stress management
• Code of conduct
• Cultural awareness
• Human rights in peacekeeping
• Humanitarian assistance
• Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
• Gender equality in peacekeeping
• Sexual exploitation and abuse
• Driving skills, basic fi rst aid, fi eld knowledge, GPS knowledge
Field Training (one week):
• Road blocks, check points, observation posts, patrols, convoys
• Civil protection
Source: The Indonesian Peacekeeping Center