Uruguayan Military Trains Journalists Preparing to Cover Peacekeeping Missions
By Dialogo October 28, 2015Uruguayan Military officials recently taught 30 journalists and social communication students how to prepare for dangerous situations they might encounter while covering overseas peacekeeping missions.
“Journalists in Mission Areas,” a program conducted by the National Peace Operations Institute of Uruguay (ENOPU, for its Spanish acronym), included representatives from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and was held in Montevideo and Lavalleja from September 14-17.
The journalists - among them reporters, editors, and news camera operators - also learned what Troops experience while serving in overseas peacekeeping missions.
“I consider the inclusion of media professionals in the work of the United Nations of particular importance so that they can see the work that the UN does and can draw their own conclusions from personal experience, which is, without a doubt, a crucial way to mold opinions,” said Colonel Carlos Frachelle, ENOPU's director. “The main goal around which this course is structured is to make sure that civilians are as prepared as military personnel are when it comes to matters of peacekeeping missions.”
The course was last offered in 2011, Col. Frachelle said, adding military officials “decided the time was ripe to offer it again. There is still much left to do when it comes to protecting the security and the lives of professionals who are so valuable to society.”
A comprehensive training program
The four-day program covered a wide range of topics on what Uruguayan soldiers experience on peacekeeping missions, including the deployment of troops on demining operations; security practices and preventative health measures; and the type of equipment Soldiers use in the field. It culminated with a 36-hour field exercise in Military Camp No. 6, Abra de Castellanos, where journalists, students, and instructors stayed overnight.
In compliance with the ENOPU’s requirements, the course included practical training for participants at the camp’s Armory and Mechanical Training Center. Instructors taught journalists and students the best ways to respond to chemical attacks, how to conduct evacuations, and how to use night vision goggles and protective gear.
“The permanent use of one’s protective helmet and bulletproof vest also facilitated the immersion of participants into an operation-like environment, since such equipment is required on a daily basis during peacekeeping missions,” Gerardo Carrasco wrote in an article for the newspaper Montevideo Portal . “Those who participate in them must learn to have them on at all times, as if they were a second layer of skin.”
The Air Force taught some of the journalists the proper way to board a Military helicopter, before taking them on a ride.
“We journalists were afforded the opportunity to face the challenges that those on peacekeeping missions encounter on a small scale,” Carrasco wrote. “We also took note of the numerous details that those on such missions have to make sure they notice since they could make the difference between life and death. An example of this could be knowing how to board a helicopter or armored vehicle in the safest and fastest way possible.”
The program is well-known among military officials and journalists throughout Uruguay. Historically, “Uruguayan reporters have been invited to travel alongside the Military and to stay on the mission’s military bases, offering journalists the opportunity to access places and settings which would have otherwise been extremely difficult for them to have visited,” Carrasco wrote.
“It gives credibility to the freedom with which we chroniclers work in the field wherever there are Uruguayan Military contingents,” he continued. “It is a testament in support of our work. In fact, the only limits that the Army has put on journalists are those relating to security concerns in conflict zones. They want to avoid having any reporter become a martyr for their profession due to the pure lack of knowledge of the risks that might exist in mission areas.”
Uruguay’s history of participating in peacekeeping missions
Training troops and journalists for their respective roles in overseas peacekeeping missions is important for a country that is active in such operations, as the country has been sending soldiers to serve as peacekeepers in regional conflicts since the late 1920s – well before the UN was founded in 1945.
Uruguay, with a population of about 3.4 million, is considered the world’s leading provider of peace forces per capita, and 90 percent of the service members in the Uruguayan Armed Forces have or will participate in a foreign mission.
The country became more active in peacekeeping operations in 1982, when it deployed a contingent of National Army drivers to the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Multinational Force and Observers, which was established as part of the Camp David Accords between Egypt, Israel, and the United States.
In 1998, Military authorities created the Army’s National Peace Operations School (EOPE), which eventually became the ENOPU, and includes all three branches of the Armed Forces.
As of January 31st, there were 1,459 military and police personnel working in UN peacekeeping missions around the world, including the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) –even though the Uruguayan contingent was reduced in January 2015–, the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), and the UN Operation in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI), according to the UN report “Troop and Police Contributors.”