Dr Aaron Edwards and Mr James Higgs from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, the British Army’s centre of excellence for officer training, were in Tonga last week to facilitate a week-long course for members of His Majesty’s Armed Forces and senior representatives from the Police Force, Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Short-term training teams from the Sandhurst academic faculty have deployed across the world to deliver courses on Leadership, Media Operations, Counter-Insurgency, Modern Warfare and International Conflict Management.
The course was attended by senior members of the Royal Household including His Highness the Crown Prince Tupoutu’a ʽUlukalala Commanding General of the HMAF, and two Royal Princess Hon Fanetupouvava’u and Hon Fredrica Fatafehi Filipe from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister’s Office respectively.
Dr Edwards said the course delivered in Tonga reflects the UK’s best practice in crisis management, stabilisation operations and conflict prevention which builds on Sandhurst’s renowned approach to officer training. The course is written by Sandhurst’s Defence and International Affairs Department to reflect the transformation in national, regional and international security since the end of the Cold War,
The course began each day with an interactive lecture outlining the key points for discussion and participants were invited to consider lessons identified in their own unique context and how the UK and international approaches are relevant to political, social and military challenges facing Tonga. The emphasis throughout the course was on small syndicate work and roundtable discussions. Dr Edwards said this aspect was a crucial part of the course and participants reflected the highly engaging learning environment which permitted a frank exchange of views on a range of case-studies, conflict mediation techniques and the various approaches to resolving conflict in today’s challenging security landscape.
At the closing ceremony, certificates were awarded to course participants by the British High Commissioner His Excellency Roddy Drummond which was also attended by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita.
Defence Advisor, Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Woodman remarked on the bond of friendship between Tonga and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, dating back to the late king George V’s attendance at Sandhurst in the late 1960s. In his speech, High Commissioner Drummond noted that the ties between the United Kingdom and Kingdom of Tonga continues to be strong and heartfelt. He said the values of the Commonwealth underpinned the important relationship between both countries and would maintain close ties in the future.
The Sandhurst team was presented with gifts by His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince at an evening event at His Majesty’s Naval Base Mansfield. As has become customary with these courses, James Higgs presented a framed course photograph and a Sandhurst plaque to His Highness on behalf of Sandhurst. It was remarked by all attendees – including Prime Minister Lord Tuʽivakano, that the assistance provided by Sandhurst and the British Military was very much appreciated by the Tonga government and people. Mr Higgs observed how the warmth, openness and humour of Tongan hospitality had been much in evidence during the week and said they were extremely grateful for the chance to learn about South Pacific culture, were deeply impressed by the superb singing traditions and moved by the many signs of friendship that were expressed during the visit.