The U.S. Army Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is consistently rated by soldiers as a place that you don’t want to go. Hot temperatures, high humidity and a geographically isolated location make it so that soldiers posted there can’t wait to PCS and soldiers training there can’t wait to leave.
It must be said, though, that JRTC does offer world-class training for warfighters from the riflemen on the frontline to the commanders maneuvering them from their TOCs. JRTC also allows international partners to come and train with U.S. forces to foster partnerships and future interoperability. British soldiers are a common sight in the backwoods of central Louisiana, however, they generally come as a single company. For their own large-scale training, the Brits go to Kenya.
The British Army Training Unit Kenya is a permanent training support unit based mainly in Nanyuki, roughly 200 km north of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Consisting of about 100 permanent staff and a short-tour cohort of an additional 280 personnel, BATUK provides demanding and realistic training exercises for units preparing to deploy.
The UK Ministry of Defence maintains a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the Kenyan government that allows up to six British infantry battalions of 10,000-12,000 personnel to carry out four-week long exercises in Kenya every year. The training takes place at Archer’s Post Training Area in Samburu County and Dol Dol Training Area in Laikipia County. BATUK also currently maintains two barracks in Nairobi that serve as a rear area base and depot.
Similar to JRTC, British soldiers stationed in Nairobi serve as OCTs and OPFOR for the units that rotate in for training. BATUK even provides domestic housing so that soldiers can bring their families during their posting.
The local environment is arid and can be difficult to navigate, making it an excellent training ground for units preparing to deploy to combat zones. To optimize training, small towns have been constructed to facilitate MOUT training and hundreds of locals are hired to serve as role players.
(UK Ministry of Defence)
In Kenya, British forces train using both the Tactical Engagement Simulation system (British MILES gear) and live fire. As a result, like at JRTC, soldiers have to be on the lookout for native wildlife that wanders into the training area. However, whereas JRTC hosts animals like turkeys and deer, soldiers training at Archer’s Point or Dol Dol have the occasional elephant or giraffe sighting.
In return for the use of Kenyan land, three squadrons from the Corps of Royal Engineers are assigned to BATUK and carry out civil engineering projects throughout Kenya, while two medical companies provide primary healthcare assistance to the civilian community. Britain also offers training opportunities in the UK to the Kenya Defence Forces and supports its fight against Al Shabaab with British deployments to Somalia.
With a renewal of the defence agreement in September 2015, British troops will continue to conduct valuable training in Kenya through BATUK.