By Francis Tsawayo WINDHOEK The Namibian Defence Force (NDF) in partnership with the United States of America has launched a peacekeeping training program as part of the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) Program. NDF’s ACOTA participation commenced early yesterday with a five-day Training Strategy Conference to complement a comprehensive training program set for the next two years. This week, NDF commanders, officers and their counterparts from the United States will develop future training plans by assessing Namibia’s current training philosophy and resources in order to design a path to a future training vision that will support Namibian troop contribution to multi-national peacekeeping operations in Africa. The outcome of the conference will be adopted into an NDF-authored training action plan that will guide and direct the upcoming training exercises and events. ACOTA will also assist the NDF to enhance self-contained training capacity and sustainability as well as help the NDF in identifying and enhancing potential NDF military speciality components such as medical units, combat engineers, which are deemed crucial complements to peace-support operations. Officiating at the conference was the Chief of Staff of Operations, Brigadier General Denga Ndaitwah, who outlined previous engagements with the US. He referred to the training partnership as a continuation of a good working relationship between both governments. Ndaitwah said because of the significance of peacekeeping to the establishment of regional and international peace, forces need to become more efficient, cost-effective and increase training effectiveness and readiness levels, regardless of limited resources. The brigadier general challenged all NDF commanders and staff officers to develop a training plan that will enable forces to achieve the highest levels of training and readiness for international peace support operations. Also addressing the senior officers in attendance was the United States Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Eric Benjaminson, who elaborated that the term “training partnership” indicated that the role of the US government was to assist the Namibian government in making the best practical use of its own resources to achieve its national and international objectives. “These include enhancing the NDF peacekeeping capabilities and working towards obtaining regional and international stability,” Bejaminson added. He revealed that ACOTA over the long run would integrate its bilateral partners into the development of the sub-region’s African Standby Brigade, hence Namibia is going to be prepared to contribute fully to the Southern Africa Standby Brigade. ACOTA is a partnership between the United States government and African militaries that enhances their ability to conduct peace support operations. The ACOTA program involves a “train the trainer” concept that typically includes two years of training and equipping of individual, squads, platoons, companies and battalions on the field. Namibia is one of the new partners. Others are Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia.
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