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Operation Olympic Chase

Operation Olympic Chase was a train-and-equip mission, intended as part of a long-term, multi-lateral partnership between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to promote security sector reform in that country. The mission was also part of an ongoing effort on the part of the government of the DRC to transform the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC). DRC President Joseph Kabila had announced this effort in 2006. The objective of the operation was to train a single light infantry battalion, which would serve as a model for the rest of the FARDC.

The training was intended to increase the ability of the FARDC to conduct effective internal security operations as part of their rapid reaction plan, help preserve the territorial integrity of the DRC, and develop an army that was accountable to the Congolese people. The initiative also represented one aspect of a long-term, multi=agency, international approach to promote a sustainable peace through the creation of a model unit in the FARDC.

The operation began in December 2009 with a 12-week course to prepare commanders, officers, non-commissioned officers and a core group of instructors in the skills necessary to train, manage and lead a light infantry battalion. This also included instruction on how to operate in accordance with the Law of Land Warfare.

Instruction at Camp Base, in Kisangani, DRC, formally began on 17 February 2010. The entire light infantry battalion training was funded by the US Department of State and as of June 2010 was expected to cost about $33 million. The training program included courses in small-unit tactics, communications, medical care and HIV/AIDS prevention and humanitarian de-mining.

Approximately 1,000 FARDC soldiers entered the training program, with the expected final battalion expected to be between 700 and 750 individuals All the soldiers participating in the battalion training underwent approximately 5-7 months of instruction at Camp Base. As part of the goal to make a professional military force every soldier in the program had been vetted for any history of human rights abuses. Sexual and gender-based violence prevention and human rights training was incorporated into every aspect of the training. The Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS) provided legal studies training. The DIILS instructors also helped address sexual, gender-based violence in the DRC by helping to strengthen the capacity of the military justice system. A sociocultural research and advisory team (SCRAT) was also deployed for the purpose of developing a curriculum for instruction regarding sexual and gender-based violence.

The training also included an innovative program, in conjunction with the Borlaug Institute, aimed at making the battalion food self-sufficient through the development of sustainable agriculture and aquaculture programs. Under this program soldiers in the battalion learned how to clear and prepare land for agricultural, plant and cultivate various food crops and to raise and care for livestock and fishponds. From February 2010 onward, soldiers from the battalion have cleared and planted corn, cassava and vegetable gardens, built 2 fishponds stocked with more than 40,000 fish, and planted native acacia and lucenia trees to be used as a food source for livestock. The goal was for the battalion to be food self-sufficient within 2 years.

Dignitaries from the DRC, the United States, the United Nations, and the international community, gathered at Camp Base to participate in a ceremony marking the graduation of about 750 DRC soldiers trained by the US in September 2010. During the ceremony, the 391st Commando Battalion was activated. The formation of this unit, intended as a model for the entire FARDC, was the objective of Operation Olympic Chase. Olympic Chase formally ended in October 2010.




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