Page 56 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
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Throughout November and December 2018, a 16 strong team from I Company deployed to Gabon to deliver counter poaching training to the Ecoguards of the Agence Nationale des Parc Nationaux (ANPN) – the Gabonese organisation charged with protecting the forests and wildlife of Gabon. The country is the last bastion for the critically endangered Forest Elephants who are being hunted at an alarming rate, as well as industrial levels of illegal logging and gold mining. The 2 RIFLES Short Term Training Team (STTT) was tasked to teach the Ecoguards low level soldiering, patrol skills and tracking that would develop the ANPN’s capability and enhance their fight against the illicit wildlife trade. This was the sixth STTT 2 RIFLES had conducted with the ANPN over a three-year period and was slated to be the final training package for the foreseeable future.
The team touched down in Libreville greeted by an apocalyptic thunderstorm, a theme that would define the six-week trip and something that made the 250-mile drive to the Lopè National Park the next day even more challenging. However, after nine hours of driving through the stunning Gabonese rainforest, negotiating the comically large potholes and crumbling tracks, the team arrived at Lopè
village their home for the duration of the trip. Following a short opening ceremony, the fifty Ecoguards were broken down into six sections each mentored by an I Company Junior Non-Commis- sioned Officer (JNCO). The Section Commanders were allocated their training objectives and given the freedom to design their own training using the amazing terrain of the national park. This proved incredibly beneficial; the JNCOs produced imagi- native training for the ecoguards with very limited resources. It quickly became apparent that the 2 RIFLES JNCOs had just as much to learn from the experienced ecoguards as the ecoguards had from them, particularly with how to live and operate in the dense jungle environment. Over six weeks the training progressed from basic patrol skills and navigation to recce patrols, vehicle checkpoints and strikes onto fictitious poachers’ camps. Concurrently, intelligence and management training was delivered to the ANPN conservateurs, the ANPN middle management who were responsible for running each of the thirteen national parks throughout the country. The two training packages complimented each other extremely well; the conservateurs were taught how to analyse intelligence, plan effectively and in turn deliver orders to the ecoguards. This manifested itself in several forty-eight hour exercises involving patrolling through the jungle, tracking fictitious poachers, whilst dodging elephants and buffalo – it was truly a remarkable experience and exceptional training for
both the ecoguards and 2 RIFLES JNCOs.
As the STTT progressed, the training developed to increasingly more complex and challenging scenarios from 48hr short exercises culminating in a six-day final exercise comprising close target reconnaissance of poachers’ camps resulting in coordinated strike operations. By this time, the ecoguards had grown in capability to such an extent that the 2 RIFLES JNCOs were able to mentor rather than instruct, a testament to how quickly they had developed. Throughout the STTT, working day in and day out with the ecoguards, and living on the periphery of Lopè village, the 2 RIFLES team became engrossed in the Gabonese community and culture. They are an incredibly warm, friendly and vibrant people who are extremely proud of their country and passionate about protecting it, which
made working with them an absolute pleasure.
The conclusion of the final exercise marked the end of the STTT with the ANPN organising a closing ceremony to thank the 2 RIFLES team for their efforts, this was attended by the British Ambas- sador to Gabon and Cameroon and various ANPN VIPs. It was a fitting end to an enjoyable and fulfilling deployment and demonstrated the value that the Gabonese placed in the training packages that 2 RIFLES had delivered. The improvement observed in the capably of the ANPN over the three-year period was very encouraging and I have every confi- dence that the ANPN will continue to develop and protect their amazing country from the incessant
illegal wildlife trade.
Major Rhys Jones
Officer Commanding I Company
Counter-Poaching Short-Term Training Team, Gabon
 STTT 6, H.E Rowan James Laxton (UK Ambassador to Gabon and Cameroon) and the ANPN students at the closing ceremony
  The closing ceremony

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