Just imagine for a moment, you are on a peacekeeping operation and you are confronted with one of these scenarios or situations: a planned or spontaneous negotiation with armed forces or militant groups, positioned in a dangerous mine location, entering into a building with explosive booby traps or stopped at a checkpoint. After that, you are held at gunpoint by a child soldier or member from a dangerous group and then kidnapped. What would you do? In reality, depending on the situation, one wrong decision may cause you to lose your life or a bodily limb; one wrong choice may put your life in jeopardy.
Students of this semester embarked on a journey, which went beyond creating these mental images. Rather, they were introduced to relevant theoretical knowledge by the military force on how to approach such situations. Simulations were also staged by the facilitators to allow students to use the knowledge gained in these and other situations.
Topics covered included: basic introduction to negotiations, mine awareness, self defense and security awareness. The aim of the presentation on negotiation was to familiarize students with the principles and aspects relating to preparation and conduct of negotiations in a typical peace keeping operation. A situational plot was carried out which involved negotiations with the different teams and a representative from an armed force in a staged conflict setting. Students acquired firsthand experience on the doís and doníts of negotiations and learned both from their successful attempts as well as their mistakes.
Students also viewed a film on mine awareness. It provided basic information on the general threat of mines and more importantly, what should be done if you are in a location which is suspected to have mines or other explosive traps. The facilitators even went a step further and created a situation of an empty house with staged booby traps and explosives. This demonstrated to students how simple it is to design and detonate such life threatening devices.
On a more physical note, through self-defense training, students became more aware of their strength and how it could be used when attacked under different circumstances and from different positions. It was emphasized by the facilitator that the purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how to defend yourself and not to attack the perpetrator.
Day two of the training ended with a theoretical session on security awareness. The idea was that students would become more exposed to the importance of being cognizant of their environment and the security risk surrounding them. They were introduced to contingency planning, emergency procedures relating to passing check points, hostage taking or detention, armed robbery, shelling and communication with the radio.
While the four teams concluded an interesting day of training, the headquarters spent the day and most of the night planning the mission for the simulations which would commence on day three. Lights went out and they rested in preparation for the toughest days of the training; limits would be tested and memories of challenges created.