Defence minister Peter Vilho says the various containment measures such as quarantine and nationwide lockdowns have had a negative impact on crucial defence activities.
Vilho was speaking on Friday during the closing stage of a three-week long military exercise dubbed ‘Ex-Khan Strike’, which took place in the Karibib district. “Joint exercises, drills, conferences, regular training and recruitment have either been cancelled or delayed. For that same reason this exercise has been modified both in size and scope,” Vilho noted.
He said the force has done well over the past 30 years until the arrival of the pandemic on the global scene, which has seen every country reeling under the impact of the coronavirus.
Vilho maintained the force has played a commendable role in acting as frontline workers, adding the military has participated in the manning of roadblocks and the patrolling of national borders. Equally, he added, the defence force has contributed to the setting up of quarantine centres and isolation facilities.
“However, the force has not been spared from the impact of Covid-19. Apart from the high risk that comes from being frontline workers, the defence personnel are also exposed because they live in communities, dine together in messes, travel together in groups and act together in operations, which makes it difficult to maintain social distancing,” he stressed.
According to him, apart from the combating and containment of the spread of the unrelenting coronavirus, the defence efforts will also be made difficult by unpatriotic members of society that are using the pandemic to gain political mileage and advance their economic interest.
Moreover, he said, it was prudent that the NDF conducts an interoperability military exercise in order to demonstrate the joint services operational capability.
“You can only know yourselves when you exercise together as a defence force, hence Ex-Khan Strike exercise which is being conducted with the aim to test the interoperability among the forces and to carry out a live demonstration of integrated weapon systems,” Vilho said. The minister emphasised the exercise was necessary to prepare the force against threats to the wellbeing and the national security.
“These type of exercises prepare us to maintain our sovereignty, territorial integrity and create conditions in which democracy is consolidated and social justice and economic development is achieved,” he said while clarifying that the exercise was not triggered by any given development but a merely routine informed by the NDF mission statement.
The joint military field exercise was planned at a brigade level and was conducted at a battalion group level, consisting of elements from the army, air force, navy, engineers, special forces, and the mobile field hospital.