More than 400 soldiers are training to deploy to the Sinai Peninsula this summer as part of a peacekeeping force between Egypt and Israel.
During their nine-month deployment, soldiers in the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will support the Multinational Force and Observers, which was established in 1981.
While there, soldiers will man posts and checkpoints along the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula, where they will observe and report violations of the Camp David Peace Accords, which were signed in 1979 by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli President Menachem Begin and President Jimmy Carter.
Lt. Col. Oscar H. Pintado, squadron commander, said the mission of supporting the Egyptian-Israeli treaty fits his unit well.
“We are a reconnaissance squadron, so by nature of what we do on a normal day-to-day basis we are very familiar with observing and reporting (to higher headquarters),” Pintado said. “That’s really the core of what (we) do. We’re excited to do this.”
When the squadron deploys this summer, it will replace the North Carolina National Guard, which has been stationed in the region since December.
Previously, the U.S. has deployed reserve component forces from the National Guard to support the peacekeeping efforts along the Egyptian-Israeli border. However, after an $18 billion shortfall in the fiscal year 2013 budget — partly due to sequestration — the U.S. will start deploying active-duty Army units to support the task force in Sinai, said Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry, an Army spokesperson.
Training for deployment
Soldiers in the squadron have been training for their new mission along the Israeli-Egyptian border for more than six months at Fort Hood and during a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
“We always try to make sure they’re trained up for anything they could possibly face,” said Maj. Steven McGunegle, squadron operations officer. “We try to make sure they have all the skills to be successful.”
Last week, soldiers conducted riot control exercises, which focused on how to respond to nonlethal forces. During training, soldiers learned how react to an unarmed but dangerous civilian population without using lethal capabilities.
“The nonlethal training is just to make us better and be all around prepared for any situation that arises,” Pintado said. “It’s not expected, but it gives us the flexibility as a unit to be better prepared.”
Soldiers previously received training on cultural awareness and how to work with the Egyptian government and bedouins.
“We’ve learned that in other cultures, people approach things differently and to be cautious of religion and different people’s roles in society,” Pfc. Alexander Perez said. “We don’t want to offend anyone; that’s unnecessary. So we’re going through training constantly to understand how their culture works.”
Next month, civilian academics from the Leader Development and Education for Sustained Peace will educate squadron leaders on the history of the region and the conflict between Egypt and Israel.
“They’ll talk to them specifically about the MFO mission and also about the 30-plus years of operations in the Sinai and how much it’s changed,” McGunegle said.
Pintado and his soldiers are looking forward to using their reconnaissance skills to support the peacekeeping force in Egypt.
“My soldiers are really excited about this mission,” he said. “They know that not only we’re prepared, but we’ve been training hard.”