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United Kingdom: future British Army officers learn about the ICRC

16-11-2012 Feature

Elections, insurgent attacks and riots test the resourcefulness of officer cadets in a ten-day field exercise held in the final term of training at Sandhurst, where British Army officers receive their training. As if that were not enough, the trainee officers come face-to-face with ICRC delegates, who introduce them to the role the ICRC plays in assisting and protecting the victims of armed conflict.

As the nature of conflict has evolved over the past 60 years from wars largely between states to non-international 'asymmetric' insurgencies, armed forces increasingly encounter humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations operating on the same terrain. The ICRC's participation in "Exercise Broadsword" three times a year helps officer cadets become familiar with the presence of such organizations, and the distinctive work of the ICRC in particular. For the ICRC it is an opportunity to imprint itself in the minds of future military leaders that hopefully leads to future encounters 'in the field' going smoothly.

During the exercise, delegates meet officer cadets at roadblocks and negotiate access to villages where military operations have just taken place, to assess the humanitarian needs of the villagers. They also brief the trainee officers on their activities in the imaginary region and take part in a coordination meeting set up by the army's civil-military liaison group, where pressing humanitarian issues are discussed, such as the building of a camp for internally displaced persons.

The officer cadets learn the laws of armed conflict in the classroom, whereas the ICRC gives a practical demonstration of the Geneva Conventions during the role-play by carrying out a routine visit to a captured 'insurgent.' This is conducted to the standard set by the ICRC for all its prison visits, with delegates holding interviews with detainees in private, to find out how they are being treated and whether their families know where they are. This element of the exercise familiarizes the future officers with the ICRC's way of working, and passes on the message that the organization will do its best to assist and protect them should they ever be captured.


Photos

An ICRC delegate speaks to an officer cadet during Exercise Broadsword, on a military training area. 

United Kingdom.
An ICRC delegate speaks to an officer cadet during Exercise Broadsword, on a military training area.
© ICRC / I. Macleod

An ICRC delegate briefs trainee officers during Exercise Broadsword. 

United Kingdom.
An ICRC delegate briefs trainee officers during Exercise Broadsword.
© ICRC / I. Macleod