Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

110408_MR_UNMOC Graduation - Igam Barracks

8 April 2011

For immediate release

Soldiers ready to commence international peacekeeping 

In line with the PNG Government’s recent signing of the International Obligations Bill, the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) has taken a crucial step toward the deployment of personnel overseas for service with the United Nations (UN).

A training team comprising instructors from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Peace Operations Training Centre, Williamtown, supported by instructors from the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Centre, Australian Federal Police, ICRC and ADF specialists in law, mediation and psychology conducted the three-week course that concluded today.

Fifteen PNGDF soldiers, five policemen from the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC), and four ADF officers undertook the training, conducted at Igam Barracks, Lae. Theory lessons were complemented by practical exercises to simulate the types of task undertaken by United Nations military observers during actual operations. Exposure to realistic scenarios, supported by role-players and observed by instructors, ensured that theory, practical skills, and team work, will be able to be put into practice on future missions.
All trainees successfully completed the training and, with the support of PNG Government and the UN, PNG officers could soon be deployed as peacekeepers on UN missions.

Members of the ADF contingent were impressed by the keenness and ability of the PNG officers. Commenting on the training, Course Manager, Lieutenant Commander Alan Earle, said that ‘there were some very capable potential UN Military Observers on the course who would make fine peacekeepers for the UN. They would be worthy ambassadors for PNG, the PNGDF and the RPNGC, he said. Some of the trainees were building on their experience of stabilisation operations in Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI). 'In addition, it was pleasing to see that such a strong bond and sense of mateship emerged among the trainees'.

High profile visitors to the course have included Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Lieutenant General David Hurley, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr David McLachlan-Karr. VIPs yesterday viewed a demonstration of practical military techniques, including observation, negotiation, verification and disarmament skills. The course had been formally opened on 21 March by Head of Australian Defence Staff, Colonel Mark Shephard, and PNGDF Training Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ray Numa.

Commander PNGDF, BRIGGEN Agwi, and Foreign Secretary Ambassador Maue – the co-chairs of PNG's International Obligations committee – delivered addresses at today’s closing ceremony.

“I am delighted PNGDF has taken this important step towards participation in international peacekeeping, and thank Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the UN for their support” said BRIG GEN Agwi.

The twenty-five PNGDF, RPNGC and ADF students are now accredited to be employed as UN military observers anywhere in the world. PNG diplomats in New York are working with Australian, NZ and UN officials to identify suitable operations for PNG military observers, and potential future peacekeeping missions, as the next steps in realising this key foreign policy priority of the PNG Government.