Gliwice soldiers training for Chad mission

One hundred five soldiers from the army base at Gliwice and 45 from elsewhere in Poland will go to Chad early next year as UN peacekeepers, the newspaper Dziennik Zachodni reported. The Polish soldiers will find themselves in the middle of one of the most brutal wars in the world.

Chad’s second civil war began in 2005. It pits government forces against rebels from Chad plus Sudanese militia. Human rights organizations have accused the rebels and the Sudanese of killing many unarmed civilians in Chad.The Gliwice troops have already begun training for their mission at an army base in Zagan. The training will last until the end of October.Most of the soldiers have already been on overseas combat missions, including in Africa, but they are unlikely to see anything like they will see in Chad.The rebels have been accused of murdering women, children and old people. About 250,000 civilians have died of hunger and thirst since the war started. And tropical diseases and unsanitary conditions are rampant. “It will be the hardest” recent overseas mission that Polish troops have faced, said Colonel Dariusz Siekiera, head of the Gliwice contingent.

“I have been part of many missions, and I know that Iraq or even Afghanistan can’t be compared with Chad, where the scenes of children killing each other or dying from hunger” occur daily.The Gliwice contingent will be the combat arm of the Polish force in Chad. The 45 non-Gliwice soldiers will be logistics people. Seventy to 80 percent of the Polish force have already had overseas combat experience. Sergeant Grzegorz Szterleja is one of them. He returned from Afghanistan six months ago.”Most of the soldiers have already been to Congo,” where a civil war raged until 2003, Colonel Siekiera said.

“They know what Africa means. They know the specifics of this job.”Private Karol Frackowiak, who joined the army in April, is one of 20-30 percent of the Polish contingents that has yet to go overseas.Frackowiak, who is thinking seriously about making the army his career, said he’s “going to Chad for adventure.”Overseas-combat veterans like Szterleja don’t talk about adventure. They see the Chad mission as a test of their soldiering skills and their ability to maintain their sanity under extreme conditions. The Gliwice soldiers are being trained in tactics 10 hours a day in Zagan.

The training includes conducting patrols, escorting convoys, protecting civilians and maintaining their health. A Warsaw University cultural anthropologist will also teach them how to deal with people in that part of the world, letting them know what behavior is acceptable and what behavior would anger local inhabitants.

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