Ugandan experience to remember

Captain Patrick Morris wrote

Note: Captain Morris is the battalion captain for the U.S. Army 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry Division Combat Operations Center.

As we made our decent into Entebbe, Uganda’s International Airport, we could see Lake Victoria and the lush green surroundings, which was a drastic change to what we had become accustomed to while in Djibouti. Our two-hour drive from the airport to our final destination in Jinja included a quick stop in Kampala, the capitol of Uganda, to exchange currency. Once we were out the large city, we were surrounded by large sugar cane and tea fields on both sides of the highway. Our driver informed us that these are two of the major agricultural exports behind coffee, which is their largest.

We arrived in Jinja late in the afternoon and the city was still buzzing with people along the streets and in the market areas. We were very surprised at the amount of shops and goods available to people in this area. Our hotel, Gately on the Nile, was a remodeled home along the banks of Lake Victoria, less than one kilometer from the source of the Nile River. We were given the opportunity to change hotels, but chose to stay due to the extremely friendly staff, great food and amazing location.

Our lead Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance trainer, Ron Corkrin, scheduled a meeting for us and the rest of the trainers on the Sunday prior to our mission beginning where we were provided the operations order we would use for the Command Post Exercise. Because of past assignments and experience, U.S. Army Major Kevin Braun worked with the personnel and logistics sections, U.S. Army Captain Kimberly Young worked with the communications section and I worked with the battle captain.

We spent the first day of training getting to know our counterparts in the UPDF and understanding their future mission. The CPX was just one stage in their training for their mobilization on deployment to Mogadishu this winter. Instead of having the normal crawl, walk and run phases of training, it felt more like we went straight to the run phase, which at first frustrated us and the staff, but we were all able to adapt, overcome and complete the mission.

Radio communications and communication between the staff sections were a huge hurdle that they eventually overcame as the week went on. They were eventually able to distinguish between current operations and future operations and divide themselves into sections to work on both at the same time. We watched as the section leaders took charge of their missions and came up with plans that were tactical and efficient to complete each mission. We gave the staff members a questionnaire pertaining to their training experience and most of the comments were very supportive of our participation and assistance during the exercise.

On graduation day we presented two battalion coins, one to the battle captain and one to the battalion executive officer, to recognize them for their hard work and achievements during the CPX. We also received authorization to wear our U.S. AFRICOM patches while in Uganda, so we had our counterparts place our new patches on us.
Being part of this mission helped us gain a better understanding as to why we are here and how we can help Africans solve African problems. This will be an experience we will never forget and could quite possibly be one of the most rewarding experiences of our military careers. We were not only given the opportunity to work with a foreign army with an important mission, but also had the opportunity to travel to a part of the world that we might otherwise never have visited.

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