United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) are living and working in Force Provider base camps provided by the United States Army, which was awarded a $19 million contract for camps last year.
In June 2014, UN representatives approached the Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems (PM FSS) Force Provider Team about base camps for the CAR mission. Working with the Army G4 (logistics), the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the United Nations, PM FSS contracted with the United Nations for six Force Provider expeditionary 150-person camps at a cost of $19 million.
“We’ve never done anything thing like this with … the U.N.,” said Mike Hope, combat field service equipment team leader for PM FSS at Natick Soldier Systems Center. “We’ve done some homeland [security] … and disaster relief work.”
Three Force Provider base camps, pre-positioned in Italy, were established four months later by a PM FSS technical assistance team and are fully operational, affording U.N. personnel a better quality of life during their deployment to CAR, the US Army said. Three more are in the process of being set up there.
“There was a concerted effort to make this [deployment] go through faster than normal channels,” said John MacDonald, lead production manager for the Combat Field Service Equipment Team. “The need was there. They had to get the capability.”
The United Nations had begun its critical mission to CAR earlier in 2014.
“[We’re] supporting the United Nations peacekeeping effort there that’s trying to prevent genocide in the region,” said Army Capt. Matt Porter, Force Provider assistant product manager. “The timeline it got done was pretty impressive.”
Early feedback from U.N. personnel about the base camps, which feature air beam shelters, showers, latrines, laundry, and air conditioning, has been nothing but positive, Hope said.
“To have a ‘city-in-a-box’ show up and be able to rapidly deploy and everything hooks together quickly, to provide that quality of life, is just [great],” Hope said. “Having that plug-and-play system, and they can actually take out any system and put it anywhere they want, even independently? That was big for them.”
Still, trained PM FSS personnel are needed to help foreign nationals operate and maintain the camps in remote, hostile locations. Three are deployed now in CAR.
“It’s not a safe place,” Hope said. “All your protection is by the United Nations. There’s no U.S. military presence there. It’s a touchy [situation].
“This was one we were really looking at, and we were really worried about it. There’s been some concerning moments. There’s a lot of fighting going on over there.”
MacDonald said Force Provider has given the U.N. troops an unusual level of comfort in the field.
“Living conditions tend to go along with the living conditions they’re used to in their military and their country,” MacDonald said. “We’ve got a pretty good, high standard … of living in the field. It’s fulfilled a need that maybe they didn’t even realize they had.
“Now they’ve got Force provider, which is a premier camp. They’re doing much better and living much better.”
Hope said U.N. officials were so impressed with the camps that they now want to purchase more for use in other missions worldwide.
“They’re looking to tailor Force Provider to their requirements,” Hope said. “It’s been really positive. We’ve got a thumbs-up from everybody.”