Where would you go if you wanted to see the United States coordinating the training of more than 800 peacekeepers from 21 countries? You might think California or Texas, but you’d be wrong. For this particular training event, you’d have to travel all the way to Indonesia to take part in Garuda Canti Darma, or “Indonesia serving for peace.”
Since 2005, the United States has worked through the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) to meet the growing need for international peace operations by helping other countries train and sustain peacekeepers. U.S. Pacific Command works hand-in-hand with GPOI to support this effort by organizing annual capstone exercises in the Pacific theater. This year, Indonesia volunteered to showcase their peacekeeping training center and host the event, providing a platform to train critical peacekeeping skills and help participants build on their understanding of how to work in multinational operations. The training ranged from field training exercises to building competencies in key peacekeeping tasks to sharing ideas and best practices on how to conduct peacekeeping operations strategically.
Perhaps some of the most important training that happened, though, was training a new cadre of trainers. Several graduates of last year’s exercises returned to received additional instruction on how to train others in conducting peacekeeping operations. These individuals will now be able to take that experience back to their home countries to help train a number of others on the peacekeeping skills they’ve acquired, making impacts that stretch far beyond the scope of the 800 participants in the Garuda Canti Dharma excercise.
Making this kind of event a success doesn’t just happen, though. Before you can teach others about peacekeeping, you first need to know how to do it yourself. To that end, the Indonesians have been building up their capacity for peacekeeping operations, including the construction of the Peacekeeping and Security Center (PSC), a world-class facility to support training just the kind of skills that peacekeepers need. Through GPOI, the United States invested $7 million to improve two barracks and a warehouse, helping increase the Indonesians’ capacity for training peacekeeping troops by up to 1,500 personnel per event. The United States also puts forth a lot of effort into running this capstone exercise. Every year, the Department of State and Department of Defense coordinate the program management, maintaining the necessary international cooperation to allow Pacific Command to work out the details of this exercise.
All of that hard work and planning came together at Garuda Canti Dharma. Indonesia was able to demonstrate what they’ve accomplished by leading many of the exercise’s sessions. And it wasn’t just the PSC members who got into the act; Indonesia also brought in two platoons of army soldiers to serve as role players in various exercises. These troops put the various countries’ peacekeepers through their paces practicing many of the challenges facing peacekeepers in the field, such as controlling food distribution to providing first aid, all while having to go through translators. Meanwhile, trainers from many other countries were coming together to demonstrate their competencies and help share best practices in how to conduct operations, such as when a platoon from the Hawaii National Guard demonstrated many of the important advances the United States has made in Combat Life Saving skills.
The results of all this training and exercises are paying off. Beyond hosting the world’s largest capstone peacekeeping exercise this year, the Indonesians are showing dramatic increases in their capacity to carry out peacekeeping operations. In 2006, Indonesia averaged 178 troops deployed to two missions. Today, Indonesia has 1,738 personnel supporting UN peacekeeping missions all around the world, with the goal of deploying 4,000 in support of UN Peacekeeping Operations by the end of the year.
GPOI is a U.S. Government-funded security assistance program started in 2005 working to meet the growing global demand for specially trained personnel to conduct international peace operations by building the capabilities of U.S. partner countries to train and sustain peacekeepers; increasing the number of capable military troops and police units available for deployment; and facilitating the preparation, logistical support, and deployment of peacekeepers. GPOI promotes international peace and security and helps set the stage for post-conflict recovery around the world lives while reducing the burden on U.S. military forces to respond to global crises.
GPOI’s efforts are succeeding in other countries as well. Among its accomplishments, GPOI has helped train over 270,000 foreign military personnel to serve as peacekeepers, along with supporting the deployment of nearly 200,000 peacekeepers from 38 countries to 29 different peacekeeping operations.
So what’s next for GPOI? Well, at the UN General Assembly, Vice President Biden co-hosted the 2014 Summit on Strengthening International Peace Operations where 31 Member Nations came together to address new urgent requirements for UN peacekeeping brought about by an ever-changing and increasingly complex global security environment. One requirement discussed at the Summit was the need for expanding the participation of women in peacekeeping. Since 2005, the United States has trained more than 4,850 female peacekeepers through GPOI, and we continue to encourage women’s participation and leadership in peace operations into many of our training events for both male and female peacekeeping personnel.
With UN peacekeeping operations at their largest size in history, another requirement is to expand the number of countries participating in and funding peacekeeping operations. In order “increase the peace,” it’s going to take more and different training and certainly more exercises like this one. That’s why the United States and others are already holding planning conferences to plan next year’s capstone event in Malaysia.
About the Author: Shaun M. Easley is a United States Air Force Major, working with the Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs as part of the Air Force Fellows program.