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Effective coordination is an essential part of mine action efforts worldwide. The author discusses the United Nations Mine Action Service’s (UNMAS's) coordination strategies, focusing on examples from Mine Action Coordination Centres (MACCs) in Africa.
by Dr. Alan Childress and Major Matt ZajacIntroduction
During January 2001, U.S. Marines, Army Special Operations
Force (SOF) soldiers and a Navy corpsman joined American Embassy
personnel and a U.S. State Department (DOS) humanitarian demining (HD) contractor (RONCO) to execute a
U.S. government (USG)-sponsored HD Program in a Horn of Africa nation, Djibouti.
While the commencement of yet another U.S. demining program in itself is
not necessarily newsworthy, this particular operation enjoyed a few unique
aspects that stemmed from experience and a spirit of cooperation that
enabled the players to bring fresh ideas to the planning table. From its
inception, the program entailed the partnership of the DOS Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Humanitarian Demining Program office
(PM/HDP), Army SOF, Marine, and Navy HD-related trainers, the civilian
demining community, the Djiboutian government, the U.S. country team in
Djibouti, and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) planners. The success of the Djibouti
HD program is due in large part to selfless and accessible leadership and
the convergence of military, government and civilian sector expertise.
The Djibouti HD program results suggest that "out-of-the-box" planning and
execution cooperation can achieve significant cost-, schedule-, and
quality-related consequences that open HD programs to unforeseen
advantages (and pleasant surprises).
The U.S.–Djibouti Plan
The Department of Defense (DoD) normally executes HD training
programs with a standard package of Army SOF assets, which consists of
Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations teams, and is generally aided by Army Explosive
Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel plus
a logistics cell. Due in part to a shortage of Special Forces assets, DoD,
through USCENTCOM, tasked the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) to
lead the training team, in part because I MEF was familiar with Djibouti
from conducting previous and on-going humanitarian assistance missions.
Thus, in setting a DoD HD precedent, a team to train and assist Djibouti
establish a HD program was formed by USCENTCOM and led by I MEF. The team
was comprised of Marine engineers and EOD experts, Army Special Forces,
Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operation trainers, and a Navy corpsman.
Each component brought unique skills to the team, and while some technical
capabilities overlapped, they provided a basis for interesting exchanges
and professional development opportunities for the Djiboutian trainees as
well as the U.S. trainers. In addition, integrating the experience of the
Special Forces team in training foreign soldiers ensured that cultural
considerations were practiced and misperceptions quickly overcome. Not
only did this unique conglomeration of forces succeed, it accomplished its
cross-service planning and execution cycle within 12 months.
The Djiboutian military provided training and billeting facilities located
at Camp LeMonier. However, since these premises had not been occupied for
some years, USCENTCOM's requirements analysis survey team determined that
renovation of these facilities was necessary prior to inhabiting them. The
spirit of cooperation of DOS PM/HDP to provide up-front
funds and support to refurbish these facilities—before military training
began—significantly reduced start-up time. This inter-agency (DOS and DoD)
cooperation enabled facility renovation and training planning to occur
simultaneously. Military forces were not available to perform the
renovations nor were they readily available to contract and oversee the
renovation project at Camp LeMonier. PM/HDP's initial involvement was
crucial to the timely start of the USCENTCOM HD program in Djibouti and
soon expanded from infrastructure and logistical support for trainer
success, to sustainment support of the program as a whole. In previous and
current programs, DOS PM/HDP executes (outsources) their HD programs
through a civilian contractor, RONCO, while DoD's regional command,
USCENTCOM, executes its HD programs through military train-the-trainer
programs, independent of civilian trainer support. In general, DOS PM/HDP
contracts mine clearance to industry, while DoD trains and equips nations
to demine themselves through train-the-trainer programs. Seldom have the
two approaches combined to achieve time and cost savings. Navy
corpsman observing first aid instruction.
Navy corpsman observing first aid instruction.
Prior to deployment, all U.S. trainers attended the Humanitarian Demining
Training Center (HDTC) at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, where they received not only
important lessons on the technical aspects of mine action but
critical, experience-based guidance on the development of lesson plans,
host-nation civil organization development and overcoming common training
challenges. It was at HDTC that the face-to-face integration of this
diverse, three-service military training team really began. As an example
of the cooperation and integration between the two groups, the HDTC
Director led a party to Djibouti to collect lessons learned while also
contributing their expertise to the trainers at work.
Since one of the Country Plan's fundamental goals was the establishment of a self-sustaining, national mine action organization under a civilian-led steering committee, it seemed logical that the American Embassy in Djibouti, as the DOS representative within the country, should assume oversight of the HD program and its continued implementation. However, prior to the Djiboutian HD program, USCENTCOM had performed this function, usually through the U.S. Liaison Officer of the Defense Attaché. The HD Training Team recommended to the U.S. Ambassador, whose experience with HD programs in the region encompassed almost a decade, to assign responsibility for the continued oversight of the HD program to one of his Country Team personnel—perhaps the Political-Military Advisor. Obviously, close cooperation between the Embassy Political-Military Advisor and the DoD-USCENTCOM Liaison Officer would be necessary. Thus, while USCENTCOM would conduct periodic assessment visits to evaluate the Djiboutian military's evolving capabilities and re-train if required, responsibility to assist the Djiboutian government in strengthening its civilian-led mine action organization and to generate non-governmental, long-term program sustainment support rested with a Country Team civilian adviser. This arrangement recognizes that longer-term U.S. sustainment is a function of DOS funding, not DoD, and in May 2001, the first DOS Embassy-based HD program manager attended USCENTCOM's annual HD planning conference in Tampa, FL.
Another outcome of the USCENTCOM and DOS-RONCO partnership
was the solution to providing on-the-ground experience and oversight to
the newly trained Djiboutian military. Given that RONCO's representative
now had firsthand knowledge of the training provided to the Djiboutian
military and their landmine problem, the HD Training Team recommended to
the Ambassador that part of the DOS sustainment money for 2001 be used to
retain RONCO's services. RONCO's role would then change from that of
logistical facilitator to an adviser to the DMAC. This would provide several immediate benefits. First, a civilian
demining firm's employees would not be under the legal restrictions that
prevent DoD personnel from entering known mine-threatened areas. This
would allow the Djiboutian HD program to benefit from current mine action
experience at the location where demining is occurring. Second, it
provides a direct link between the Djiboutian military and the DOS
representative in the American Embassy, strengthening the ability of DOS
to influence the use of USG-provided resources. Finally, the RONCO
representative can provide accurate information regarding the Djiboutian
program's development, enhancing USCENTCOM's periodic training assessments.
The article examined the multiple partnerships that were formed during the
planning and execution of a demining program by a relatively small team of
dedicated SOF soldiers, marines and a sailor, as well as the benefits achieved from
USCENTCOM and DOS cooperating and coordinating throughout the program.
Several of the partnerships discussed may be applied to other HD programs.
A fundamental lesson is that the organizational parameters of USG HD
operations must remain flexible—and indeed may need to be dismembered and
recombined—to successfully meet a program's goals. Selfless and
accessible leadership is a vital element in developing the inter-service
relationships necessary to achieve these goals in a compressed time span.
The Djiboutian Humanitarian Demining Training Team's flexible approach
and the unique partnerships generated resulted in categorical success and
provided unforeseen advantages to the U.S. demining program in Djibouti.
Dr. Alan Childress recently retired as a management and technology
consultant with Booz, Allen & Hamilton. A 26-year veteran of Army Special
Forces and Rangers, he specialized in international management while
earning his business administration doctorate.