A new contingent of Salvadoran military personnel is scheduled to join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA, in French) in December. As such, El Salvador shows its commitment to the United Nation’s (UN) peacekeeping, security, and stabilization efforts in the region.
“This deployment will not replace the air unit. To the contrary, it increases our presence in that part of the world,” Colonel Jorge Alberto Miranda, chief of the 3rd Operations Group of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of El Salvador, said to Diálogo. “This will be an airport ground services unit made up of 70 soldiers. Our presence in Mali will grow to 160 personnel.”
The mission of the new contingent, made up of men and women, is to improve and maintain operational conditions at one of Mali’s airports. The unit also has search and rescue and firefighting duties in the terminal area. Service members brought the technology and equipment needed to manage the airport. These duties come in addition to day and night patrols on the ground and in the air; maintenance of transportation and communication equipment; training and education; and other duties the Salvadoran service members perform from the moment they deploy.
El Salvador has been part of MINUSMA since May 2015, operating independently with the Torogoz (El Salvador’s national bird) Armed Helicopter Unit (AHU), which consists of 90 military personnel under the UN mandate. The newly deployed AHU trained in El Salvador with personnel who manage Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero and Galdámez International Airport in the department of La Paz and already received praise from the UN.
“To expand the unit’s training and capacities, El Salvador received support from the Global Peace Operations Initiative [GPOI],” Col. Miranda said. “Likewise, it received support from U.S. Southern Command to complete all required training and certifications our personnel needed to participate in peacekeeping missions.” GPOI is a U.S. Department of State funded program, executed in coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense, to build partner nation capacity to conduct UN Peacekeeping Operations. GPOI also heavily assisted the deployment of the Torogoz unit, with pre-deployment training, base operations sustainment equipment, in-mission training, and helicopter spare parts.
“El Salvador rose to the challenge of meeting the very high standards that UN requires to deploy, both in material resources and competencies the personnel in the contingent must meet,” Col. Miranda said. “Communication was another challenge. Spanish is widely used in the world, but it’s unknown in the places we’ve been to. We were able to overcome that by learning and practicing English.
“The logistics’ matter in our deployments to Mali was also an important issue for the Armed Forces of El Salvador. They have to prepare all the cargo, place it in containers, load it onto ships, ship it, and receive it in Africa,” Col. Miranda said. “The deployed military personnel meet the training requirements to carry out their duties in the assigned area, with competencies in human rights and first aid,” added Salvadoran Air Force Captain Alfredo Alexander García, head of the 6th Information Systems Department and MINUSMA member.
Peacekeeping operations help military institutions keep up with ongoing training. “Each deployment shows the level of operational readiness of its armed forces, which are able to operate abroad wherever the UN needs them,” Col. Miranda said.
“Teamwork is also key for operational readiness because we are a coordinated structure. If one part of the contingent doesn’t work, operations can come to a standstill,” Capt. García added. The efficiency of missions rests on mutual trust and the high degree of training and professionalism the military and police contingents execute in their duties.
The Armed Forces of El Salvador plans to send the fourth rotation of its Torogoz helicopter unit to Mali 2018. “As officers and members of the Armed Forces, we are morally committed to boost the reputation of our nation and our glorious Armed Forces at all times,” Capt. García concluded.