Gangs of monkeys ambushed Major Matthew Breckenridge when he started cycling along the steep, rural road leading to his new workplace in Indonesia.
“A couple of times I couldn’t get back to the office and had to wait for someone to pick me up,” he said.
Major Breckenridge is at the Indonesian Armed forces (TNI) Peacekeeping Centre, called PMPP Sentul, about 40km south of Jakarta. He began the inaugural exchange posting 18 months ago.
Australia doesn’t have large contingents on UN peacekeeping missions, so working with the Indonesians, who send thousands of people yearly, provides Defence with valuable knowledge, according to Major Breckenridge.
“We [Australia] send about 20 people a year to UN staff officer or military observer positions, so it’s difficult to maintain good corporate knowledge without working with partner countries,” he said.
Last year, Major Breckenridge helped prepare the centre’s submission to become one of the first in the world to gain UN recognition for peacekeeping training, and the first ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) country to do so.
It was part of the UN’s effort to standardise instruction provided by the 150-odd member nations.
The course can be offered to anyone in the world now, so it was a prestigious achievement for the PMPP, according to Major Breckenridge.
Two and a half thousand TNI soldiers are deployed on UN missions at any time, and all of them pass through the centre.
Major Breckenridge teaches lessons and provides mentoring to up to 1200 soldiers at a time, while gaining understanding on how the TNI operates. Many have not met foreigners before, so he said it was good exposure to help them prepare for a multicultural experience, particularly for junior soldiers.
His main roles include instructing pre-deployment and specialised UN training courses, and directing staff for multinational and bilateral peacekeeping exercises, such as Garuda and Kookaburra.
Pre-deployment training is conducted mostly in Bahasa, and specialised courses are delivered in English, as much as possible.
After learning Bahasa at the Defence Force School of Languages in 2017, Major Breckenridge sought involvement in ADF exercises with the Indonesians to maintain his vocabulary.
He noticed there was a big difference in language used to conduct a range shoot to that used at a final planning conference.
It was necessary to quickly pick up the lingo and get attuned to saying certain things, he said, particularly for instructing junior soldiers.
Major Breckenridge said the unit had been very receptive to him.
“From the first day, they gave me meaningful work and have been looking to give me the best possible experiences,” he said.
“That’s differentiated it from a lot of other postings.”
Read More:Indonesian exchange helps keep the peace