ARCHIVED - Canadian Army officers exchange expertise with Brazilian peacekeepers

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Article / April 29, 2015 / Project number: 15-0058

Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Canadian Army officer Major Jérôme Robin-Thériault’s time working with the Brazilian battalion in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti has been an excellent exercise in international cooperation.

Canada and its close ally Brazil are among some 50 nations participating in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, commonly known by its French name, Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti (MINUSTAH).  The UN mission has been in Haiti since 2004, supporting the island nation as it strengthens its security and institutions.

Operation HAMLET is the name given to the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) participation in MINUSTAH. To strengthen military-to-military cooperation, Op HAMLET integrated a CAF platoon into the UN mission’s Brazilian battalion (BRABAT) in June, 2013. The platoon’s rotation ended in November of that year, but two Canadian Army officers continue to be embedded in the BRABAT.

Major Jérôme Robin-Thériault, whose home unit is the Lévis, Quebec-based Régiment de la Chaudière, is currently one of those officers. In his position as G3 Operations Planning, he helps to plan operations at the battalion level, from initial analysis to eventual execution. “Everything is different: the culture, language, the manner to do something, everything,” said the major, who considers the cultural exchange his favourite aspect of being embedded.

This is his first deployment.  A full-time Reservist with a geography degree from Université Laval, Maj Robin-Thériault did close to three months of training in Brazil, including one month of language training in Portuguese, before beginning his deployment with the BRABAT in December, 2014.

The Brazilian battalion’s main activities are security patrols, including check points and cordon searches. The BRABAT also conducts Civic-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) projects to help improve living conditions for Haitians, an area in which the other embedded Canadian officer is involved.

The battalion consists of four companies and a Quick Reaction Force squadron, responsible for security for the Cité Soleil, Forte Nacional, and south of Forte Nacional quarters of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The BRABAT is also charged with the security of Basa do Porto, a place for the BRABAT to resupply near the Caribbean Sea.

These are areas with a lot of population, and we have a lot of problems with different gangs,” said Maj Robin-Thériault, adding that the situation has escalated since the end of the Haitian legislature’s mandate on January 12, 2015. “The presence of the BRABAT helps give a feeling of security to the population.

Every day our job is to plan and ensure the environment is secure for the quarters,” said the major, who feels his Canadian officer training was excellent preparation for the mission, particularly the Primary Reserves Army Operations Course. “In this course, you work in a simulated international environment. I think our process is very good in preparing officers for a deployment like this.

Although the main language within MINUSTAH is English, Maj Robin-Thériault speaks only Portuguese within the BRABAT and French with the local population while out on patrol. “I speak English, Portuguese, French and Spanish, so I use my skill to build relationships with every person running around my environment,” said the major, who is out almost every day in the BRABAT’s area to talk to the people and do the rounds. “When people see our flag, of course they want to talk with us in French.

The two Canadian officers live in the Brazilian barracks where their friendly and sports-enthused colleagues often invite them to join a game. “Soccer is the religion and volleyball is the sport,” said Maj Robin-Thériault. “That’s what I will remember for life, playing volleyball.

In May, 2015, Maj Robin-Thériault will be returning home to Lévis and his wife and children. Asked what he would like the Canadian public to know about his experience in Haiti, Maj Robin-Thériault answered, “At the level of the BRABAT, I just want to say it’s a very good opportunity to link at a practical level with other organizations and work and learn about them, as they learn about us. The Brazilian army has a lot of experience with UN missions, especially in Haiti, and it’s interesting to talk and work in their environment.

This story is the first of two articles about Canadian Army officers who have been deployed on Operation HAMLET, the Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which is commonly known by its French name, Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti, or the acronym MINUSTAH.

By Gerry Weaver, Army Public Affairs

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