Brigadier Gulla, Commander of 4th Brigade Kenyan Defence Force shares a light moment with Colonel Duncan Mann, Commander British Army Training Unit Kenya.

Irish Guards and Kenya Rifles Pioneer New Partnership

Ministry of Defence
4 min readAug 16, 2023

Over the past month, the Lolldaiga Hills in the Rift Valley region of Kenya crackled to the sounds of blank gunfire, shouts of command and battlefield simulation explosions.

Those on the exercise area would have witnessed orders bellowed in English — often with an Irish lilt — and Swahili, as over 150 soldiers from Kenyan Defence Force and the UK Armed Forces trained together on Exercise HARAKA STORM.

British and Kenyan armies training together is nothing new, the two forces have a long history of working together, but this time the approach to a joint exercise was radically different.

Previously, a Kenyan company would simply join a British battlegroup conducting what was, in effect, a British exercise designed to meet British Army training objectives. Given their current operational commitments in northern Kenya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Kenyan Army wanted something different.

They asked for an exercise with greater emphasis on counter-insurgency rather than conventional light role infantry training. The British Army was more than happy to oblige, and a joint British-Kenyan planning developed a bespoke exercise to meet Kenya Defence Force [KDF] needs.

HARAKA STORM enabled both nations’ armies to work together and allowed bespoke training for 3 PARA and 1 Kenya Rifles respectively, to achieve different training objectives. One example of this was when they conducted a military manoeuvre involving a unit moving through another unit’s position away from the enemy. This was a first in a joint UK — Kenyan exercise.

Kenyan and British soldiers practice extracting a casulty under fire in a scenario.
A Kenya Rifleman extracts an Irish Guardsman ‘casualty’ during a training scenario simulating a partnered raid operation

The new partnering model saw the Irish Guards initially working with C Company, 1 Kenya Rifles during a live fire stage. This progressed to patrolling with close quarter shooting skills, and dealing with a casualty whilst being able to return accurate fire — all valuable counter-insurgency skills.

Kenya Defence Forces’ C Company worked with their own KDF Engineers to build a Forward Operating Base (FOB), developing skills that they are likely to employ on operations. An effective FOB routine was designed, rotating platoons between protecting the FOB, carrying out a platoon ambush on enemy personnel and vehicles, and securing an obstacle crossing.

A Kenya Defence Force Engineer officer helps to position and build a Forward Operating Base on Exercise HARAKA STORM.

The Irish Guards worked and lived alongside the Kenya Rifles inside the FOB, which fostered close professional and personal relationships. Many Irish Guardsmen developed a penchant for the Kenyan staple dish of githeri (a bean and maize based one pot stew) served with rice, which was savoured whilst socialising with their Kenyan colleagues and seamlessly fostering close friendship ties.

Kenyan and British soldiers discuss the training exercise.

One of the biggest achievements of Exercise HARAKA STORM was the understanding and insight that came from partnering with other nations. Both the British and Kenyan forces learned valuable lessons from each other. Many Kenyan C Company Riflemen who had recently served in Somalia taught the Irish Guardsmen about the Improvised Explosive Devices they encountered on operations, as well as the tactics, techniques and procedures used by insurgents.

During the exercise three Kenya Defence Forces Brigadiers visited the training area, including Brigadier Jatan Gulla whose brigade of soldiers were taking part. He told his troops on the exercise that the insight they had gained would be used by more than just them, that they would be sharing their skills “to train other troops who have not had this kind of opportunity.”

The Kenyan soldiers who took part in HARAKA STORM are set to deploy on operations at the end of this year, and the training and counter-insurgency skills they learned from The Irish Guards through this partnership exercise will prove invaluable. Whilst for the Irish Guards, they return home with a greater understanding of African operations, gained through hearing the experiences of their Kenyan counterparts, as well as carrying the bonds of friendship that always flourish between allies on joint exercises and missions.

Kenyan Rifleman and a British soldier from the Irish Guards stand shoulder to shoulder on the joint exercise HARAKA STORM.



Ministry of Defence

DefenceHQ is the official corporate news channel of the UK Ministry of Defence.