By Shallum Tabea
Shallum D. Tabea is from Bana district in South Bougainville has written this article about his experiences in Tonu Defence Academy in Siwai District.
After withdrawing from Divine Word University in 2012 I decided to join the recruits of the Royal Bougainville Military Defence Forces. I was then enlisted into the basic recruit training programme in March 2014 after going through the medical examination test conducted at Tonu.
The recruits come from different parts of Bougainville and PNG. It is a military training programme conducted yearly and eligible youths from across the region who meet the criteria of the recruitment process undergo three to six months of training and then pass out at the Tonu Defence Academy.
Though being the centre of many critiques, very little is known and accurately written about the Tonu Defence Academy. No media wish to enter the Zone in Tonu regardless of much news worthy events and progress that take place there and so very little is known throughout Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.
In the first week of the training we went through a mind healing seminar that is broadly facilitated by pastors. After the mind healing teaching we went straight through the training process that includes physical training and theory lectures. The training is very tough and one has to be physically fit in order to get on the boots. Some of the recruits have to withdraw in the second and third weeks due to the brutal training regime.
As recruits, we were told we have to follow orders from officers of higher rank without question.
Each day we woke up as early as 0400hrs and marched to the chapel for morning devotions for spiritual development and again at 1800hrs for evening devotions. The devotion also provides the arena for the trainees to give testimonies of some are very heart touching testifying how the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) brutally beat them but God was there to save them from the barrel of the gun during the Bougainville crisis.
At the morning and evening devotion recruits recite the Military Prayer, which is;
“Almighty and everlasting God. By whose grace thy servants enable to fight the good fight of faith and ever proved victorious. Help us to think wisely, to speak rightly, resolve bravely, act kindly and to live purely. Bless us in body and in soul, strengthen us in life, comfort us in thy hour of death. For the sake of thy son Jesus Christ our Lord of lords and the King of kings. Amen.”
The training is broad and is not confined only on domestic internal areas but it excels beyond the boundaries in meeting internationally recognized standard of training. Apart from physical training the program covers specific areas in international law and leadership skills training,
After passing out as privates, some of our personnel are dispatched to other centres on the Island. Currently several of our boys are providing security at the recently opened Aropa Airport in Central Bougainville.