Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Peacekeeping training simulations from the PPC

Surfing the web today (when I should be writing a grant application instead), I came across this report from last year on a run of the “Salmo” peacekeeping scenario for the Turkish military, organized and implemented by the folks at the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and held at the Ataturk Wargaming and Cultural Center (you’ve got to love that name…)

Postcard from Fontinalis

King’s students telling the stories of a fictional land

Tidings, Summer 2008

By Mark Burgess

The salvelinus fontinalis is a brook trout prominent in eastern Canada. The salmo trutta is a brown trout, native to Europe and Asia.

Fontinalis and Trutta are also hostile nations in the fictitious region of Salmo, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre’s creation and the site of a journalism internship for eight graduating King’s students last November.

Operation Eurasian Star—a NATO Rapid Deployable Corps training exercise for the Turkish military—operated in the secure confines of Istanbul’s Ataturk Wargaming Centre, where we worked 12 to 13 hour days. But for the most part our compasses were dialed to the fictional coordinates.

And so the eight of us—Lyndsie Bourgon, Colleen Cosgrove, Jenny McCarthy, Connor MacEachern, Richard Norman, Sandi Rankaduwa, Sarah-Jane Steele and I—were the media corps, covering the cruel fictions of balkanized Fontinalis.

Pearson staff Dr. Kenneth Eyre and Peter Dawson (BAH ’85) masterminded the make-believe country and the scenarios that came with it. Their creation borrows Nova Scotia’s geography, the former Yugoslavia’s tragedy and employs Latin fish names for the area’s doppelgängers. Eastern Canada is Salmo, a region of seven countries. Mainland Nova Scotia becomes Fontinalis and eastern New Brunswick is the rival People’s Republic of Trutta. The conflict began when old tensions between Ethnic Truttan enclaves within Fontinalis and the majority Fontinalians boiled over

Salmo is a thorough creation. The scenario’s background documents included detailed topography, elaborate histories, invented religions, complex ethnic loyalties and colourful embellishments. For example: the endangered Great Northern Panther (3.5 metres, 230 kilograms) haunts the forests of the Libris prefecture with an innate taste for human flesh; the national drink, Vyskejak, is a grain liquor sold at a potency ranging from 35 to 65 per cent alcohol, and is pronounced with the hard ‘V’ that distinguishes the Vontinali language.

The plot lines used in the simulation were varied and unrelenting. Each day featured a heavy dose of “injects,” events designed to test the Turkish forces’ ability to respond to the unexpected. These ranged from the assassination of a Supreme Court judge, to Greenpeace accusations that a NATO boat had injured a whale, to more serious indiscretions leveled against the forces. The military’s response to these trials—practically, diplomatically, and, in part, with the press—determined the battle rhythm, or the pace and content of future injects.

The responses weren’t always what we expected; sometimes there was no response at all. The Turkish military wasn’t accustomed to the scrutiny we presumed was our right, which made it difficult for both of us.

According to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre:

Training for this “fog of peace” requires exposure to peace operations in all their complexity. The PPC’s exercises require organizations to assess complex situations and to interact with other key players in order to achieve their mission objectives. In doing so, the scenario presents the opportunity to develop and practice team and individual skills as part of an organization’s preparation for potential deployments.

The region of Salmo – with its seven fictitious countries – was written to represent a complex and unstable region of the world. The crises in the region encompass all of the elements of complex and realistic contemporary conflicts, including civilian, military and police dimensions. The scenario is based on an amalgam of various peace operations since the Cold War including aspects of Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and the former Yugoslavia.

You’ll find more on PPC’s training simulations here, including both the Salmo scenario and their own version of Carana—the latter being developed for the AMANI AFRICA training cycle which will exercise the African Union in the deployment of the African Standby Force. Some of this latter simulation is now online, so I’ll devote a full post for it.

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