Africa

Inside Camp Isiolo: The UK Troops Training Kenyan Forces

We gained special access to the camp, which is around a six-hour drive northwest of Nairobi.

Forces News has been given special access to the camp where British troops are training Kenyan soldiers.

The Kenyan School of Infantry sits right in the heart of Kenya, around a six-hour drive northwest of Nairobi.

A few kilometres from the school is Camp Isiolo.

A constant stream of UK troops go there for around three weeks at a time in order to teach the Kenya Defence Force a range of skills, from urban and rural patrolling, to ground sign awareness and live-firing.

"The key thing is, we're not here to teach them tactics," said Warrant Officer 2 Adam Addison, Officer Commanding range management and live-firing training.

"What we're here to do is help them train safer.

"Losing people in battle has to happen every now and then, [but] losing life in training is not something that is acceptable in this day and age."

Asked what it is like to work with British troops, Kenyan special forces soldier Corporal Titus Mwongera said it is "awesome".

"We have learned a lot," he told Forces News.

British troops part of BPST at Camp Isiolo in November 2019 used on 050320 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
British Peace Support Team (BPST) members at Camp Isiolo.

Acacia thorn bushes with large, rigid spikes form a perimeter fence around the camp to rival any amount of barbed wire.

The camp itself is basic, containing portaloos, solar showers and a trailer which doubles up as a fridge and cooker.

Occasionally, lions and hyenas even pay a visit.

"Perhaps you'd like to film the camels in the garden," jokes Warrant Officer Class 2 Paul McCann, gesturing towards the animals just outside the perimeter fence.

Over the years, British troops have made a number of changes to the camp, including renovating the firing range and building an assault course.

There are also plans to improve the urban village to make it more like a Somali town - the kind of environment many Kenyan soldiers will be deploying to.

"We are very good at providing training," said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Hipkins, who leads the teaching.

"I would go as far as to say that the Americans... whilst they have much more money perhaps to spend than some out here, they do like the fact that we have this ability to bring British soldiers out here and cascade very good, world-class training and capability and skills."

Kenyan soldier during exercise training at Camp Isiolo in November 2019 used on 050320 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
A Kenyan soldier during part of the training with BPST at Camp Isiolo.

However, Lt Col Hipkins admitted there are also challenges facing his training team.

"The Kenyans have first-rate kit and equipment on the deployed operation [in] Somalia, [but] it doesn't always appear when we run courses here," he said.

"I get people pitching up with AK-47s, M-16s... the list goes on and on but it is what it is... I don't care if they pitch up in flip-flops.

"The idea is to give them an inherent background and a skill set they can use in operation."

Most of the British troops currently at Camp Isiolo are from the Scots Guards.

Soon, they will return to their battalion in the UK, where they will prepare to deploy to either Iraq or Estonia.