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Soldier’s winter army mission to Uganda, East Africa

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A soldier from Hull has been enjoying a winter break with a difference – helping to train Ugandan soldiers in the equatorial heat and humidity of East Africa.

Sergeant Richard Oetegenn, was part of a 30 strong team led by Reservists of the 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (4 YORKS), who spent 11 days in temperatures of up to 32°C testing the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) before it crosses into Somalia to run peacekeeping operations.

Full-time soldier Richard, 39, has been teaching Ugandan soldiers how to move insurgents out of built up areas. He said: “We teach them how to clear a building, then we build up to a large attack which can mean moving through a village. It’s a bit difficult, in the main because of the language barrier, so we have to be more creative and explain everything visually. But they are good soldiers and very enthusiastic about their job.”

Richard swapped his usual base at Somme Barracks, Sheffield, for the UPDF Peace Support Training School at Singo in the south of the country. He was part of a British Army team which helped school a 1,900 strong Ugandan Battlegroup in a range of counter-insurgency techniques before setting the soldiers their final exam – an intensive, three day exercise designed to test their new skills to the limit.

The 4 YORKS led team not only included fighting soldiers but also Medics, training officers, Military Police and support staff, most of whom have civilian jobs but give up their spare time to train and serve as Army soldiers.

Richard, who is married to Joanne and has two children Joshua, six, and Poppy, aged one, added: “I have really enjoyed being in Uganda, it’s my third time serving in Africa; I have also been to Kenya and Sierra Leone.”

Lieutenant Colonel Iain Hallam, the training team’s Commanding Officer, said: “I’ve been really impressed with how much the Ugandan Army does with so few resources, and equally impressed with a really important quality our team has - an ability to connect with the Ugandan soldiers.”

Colonel William Beinomugisha, the Commander of UGABG 13 - the UPDF Battlegroup, said: “Everything has gone well, the training is in place and we have enjoyed it. I can say as Commander of the Battlegroup that our forces are able and ready to go to their mission.”

The training team in Uganda is being supported by a handful of Regular soldiers – a complete reversal of recent times when Army Reservists were used to supplement Regular units. It is a shift towards developing self-contained Reserve units capable of performing military tasks, such as training partner forces, independently.

The UK Armed Forces are changing, with greater emphasis being put on the Reserve Forces. The aim is that, by 2020, Reservists will be a fully integrated component of the ‘Whole Force’ and will routinely deploy as part of all military operations.

 

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