Uruguayan Army Trains Personnel for Deployment on the Sinai Peninsula
By Carlos Maggi/Diálogo August 21, 2017A pre-deployment course held at Uruguay’s National School for Peace Operations (ENOPU, per its Spanish acronym) concluded on July 20th for the Uruguayan Army special engineers group, which will be traveling to the Sinai Peninsula. A total of 33 military members received relevant training, addressing different issues related to the work of the Multinational Force and Observer (MFO) members during their deployment: technical training, legal issues, transport, driving vehicles, finances, rules of engagement, personnel security, threat detection, and proper conduct in convoys. English classes, training on military drills, and physical education were also offered. Background After a drawn-out land dispute, a peace treaty between the governments of Egypt and Israel was signed on September 17, 1978 by president Anwar el-Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the urging of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who committed the United States to taking the necessary measures to ensure that, if the United Nations did not establish and maintain a multinational force, it would create an alternative one. This situation persists today. Uruguay joined the multinational force in 1981 and it is, therefore, the South American country’s oldest Army mission. In the course of the past 36 years, Uruguay has developed a great deal of experience in peacekeeping work. ENOPU conducts training every year for personnel deploying to that region of the world. During training, different speakers participate from the Israeli government diplomatic corps and the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Uruguay, along with instructors from the Uruguayan Army and the Central Hospital of the Armed Forces. “The National School of Peace Operations is where we prepare our contingents for different United Nations missions, as well as those who will relieve the military personnel who are in the Sinai Peninsula under the MFO mandate next August 22nd,” Uruguayan Army Colonel Niver Pereira, the ENOPU commander, told Diálogo. Participating in the mission are contingents from various countries, including Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. They work together on a foundation of mutual respect and brotherhood. They carry out tasks such as transporting personnel, supplies, fuel, water, and food between different bases, some of them in remote areas. Engineers, meanwhile, work on maintaining roads. “Keeping in mind what tasks are to be done, like observing, reporting, and checking that the peace treaty is being complied with, they are instructed for three weeks in different areas for a complete training,” Col. Pereira said. “Our contingent has a lot of experience even though the missions have been evolving and the threats have been changing.” Current situation: unstable and unpredictable The area of engagement of the multinational force, which the Uruguayan military members are a part of, can be considered unstable. Therefore, they have stepped up security measures. “In the last few years, the situation in the region has evolved unfavorably, becoming a very unstable and unpredictable area in terms of the evolution of future events. The MFO takes the protection of its personnel very seriously, and it has invested a lot in that, increasing security and response measures in a dangerous situation, trying to minimize any direct or collateral damage to them,” said Uruguayan Army Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Rodríguez, the commander of that country’s Transport and Engineering Unit. Lt. Col. Rodríguez noted that the specific functions of the soldiers under his command are fundamental to the mission. The first function is land transport and the second is the support of the specialized engineering personnel, which according to what is laid out in the peace treaty, includes air, land, and sea route monitoring of the roughly 60,000 square kilometers known as Zone C, in the vicinity of the Israeli border. “The work of the transport unit is basically moving supplies and personnel to different MFO sites located throughout the Sinai Peninsula. On the other hand, the engineering unit is responsible for maintenance and improvement of roads, since they are constantly obstructed by the movement of sand dunes in the desert, and also responsible for building any fortifications the force requires,” Lt. Col. Rodríguez explained to Diálogo. Lt. Col. Rodríguez expressed that he was honored to command an army contingent from a country with a long history of contributing to world peace. “Without a doubt, it is a source of pride to represent my country in this multinational force, and it is also a constant challenge to ensure that my personnel stay efficient since the situation here is very dynamic and different every day. Without a doubt, I trust that our nation’s contingent will continue to aim to maintain the highest level of professionalism on the part of each and every one of its members, and raising the prestige of our country, which has characterized it these past 36 years of permanence in these arid lands,” he said. The timeframe for their stay in the mission area continues for the period of one year. Once that time is up, the so-called rotation flight takes place, where military members with a similar training arrive to relieve those who finished their year-long deployment. Some of them have already been in several missions in the Sinai Peninsula.