Wednesday, 18 April 2012

South African soldiers need training AND education says military leadership expert

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It is not sufficient to merely train military personnel today; they also need to be educated. A solid understanding of the legal, political, social and economic terrain is essential. This is according to Prof Lindy Heinecken, Associate Professor of Sociology at Stellenbosch University, who will present a workshop on military leadership and training at the upcoming Land Forces Africa conference and exhibition in Johannesburg in May.

Prof Heinecken says landward forces in Africa face specific challenges within the next 20-
30 years, including dealing with military operations that are not conventional in nature, implying that future landward forces must develop the capacity to deal with guerilla tactics as well as other strategies employed by rebel groups such as civil disobedience and disinformation. She explains: "they need to be far more agile, decentralised, flexible and innovative to deal with these types of attacks. Another important aspect is that future deployments will take place in states where even if there is peace, it is a fragile peace because of the lack of state capacity."

Specific skills to deal with specific challenges
Soldiers therefore need specific skills to deal with these combat and peacekeeping scenarios according to Prof Heinecken: "soldiers train for war and they down train for secondary functions. Feedback from military personnel indicated that more intensive training is necessary to prepare for and deal with unusual hostile situations and for better intelligence. Today, it is not sufficient to merely train military personnel; they also need to be educated. A solid understanding of the legal, political, social and economic terrain is essential, or what has been referred to as the human terrain. This is necessary to enable soldiers to think and act from a 'local' perspective. They need to understand the culture, traditions, practices and power structures of the host country they are trying to assist and not to be seen as an intervening force, pushing an agenda down on the population."

Highly sophisticated intelligence required
The military sociology professor continues: "the wars in Africa do not require highly sophisticated technology. What they require is highly sophisticated intelligence. Rebel forces have gained control against technically advanced modern armed forces using light lethal weapons and transport suited to the terrain; and this could be donkeys, not tanks. I would say that in Africa, it is far more important to be equipped with the necessary 'knowledge' of the terrain, than with sophisticated weapons that cannot be used effectively in counter-insurgency type operations."

Prof Heinecken's workshop on "Military leadership and training for a collaborative SADC landward force" on 28 May at the Land Forces Africa conference and exhibition, is aimed not only at military personnel, but all those involved in supporting land forces in their deployments. Says Prof Heinecken: "today, land forces deploy with many other 'forces' and organisations involved in either peacekeeping or post-conflict reconstruction and development (PCRD). This is particularly important for the military, as often they are not the lead organisation in planning and executing in PCRD missions and when they are asked to take the lead, need to be know and understand how to manage diverse groups."

The Land Forces Africa conference and exhibition will gather some 400 leading African defence force officials and security industry stakeholders to discuss the collaboration and streamlining of landward military operations in Southern Africa and further abroad, to counteract internal and external threats.

The conference programme will feature more than 30 industry experts, emphasising the push for a joint military approach in Africa, including:

• Lieutenant General Chander Prakash, Force Commander, MONUSCO, UN, Democratic Republic of Congo
• Mr El Ghassim Wane, Director: Peace and Security, African Union, Ethiopia
• Lieutenant General Vusimuzi Masondo, Chief of the South African Army
• Major General Gaolathe Galebotswe, Commander of Ground Forces Command, Botswana Defence Force
• Ambassador Sisa Ngombane, Deputy Director General – Africa Multi-Lateral, DIRCO
• Martin Reeves, Manager: SA Army Portfolio, Armscor

Well-known security industry technology experts who will be there include representatives from SAAB, Denel, Grintek and BAE Systems.

Event dates and location
28 May: Pre-conference workshop
29-30 May: Conference
Gallagher Estate, Johannesburg, South Africa

Event website:

Published in Science and Education