January 7th 2016

Nurse from Nottingham travels to Uganda with the British Army Reserve

A nurse from Nottingham had a Christmas break with a difference – travelling to Africa to train soldiers.

Captain Christine Ongoma, 45, caught some winter sun while visiting Uganda with the British Army Reserve.

She used her experience working as a nurse on Civvy Street to help make the training as realistic as possible.

The effect was so realistic that Ugandan People’s Defence Force soldiers thought they were real injuries.

Captain Ongoma said: “We make sure the scenarios are as gruesome as possible because I want them to be under no illusion that the worse can happen – they need to be prepared psychologically.”

“Their acting skills combined with the effects made it quite realistic. One of the female soldiers was crying because she thought it was real.

“We had to debrief them afterwards and make sure they were OK.”

Ugandan soldiers volunteered to play the part of casualties who had been wounded in an IED attack during training delivered by 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.

They were slathered in a mixture of fake blood and petroleum jelly and had specially made silicon wounds – designed by a student on Bradford University’s Media Make-up with Special Effects course – stuck on their chests.

The soldiers Captain Ongoma worked with are due to be deployed in the New Year to fight Al-Shaabab insurgents in Somalia.

For Kenyan-born Captain Ongoma this has a special significance – as Al-Shaabab were responsible for attacks on the Garissa University and the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

Captain Ongoma said: “This training is my own personal contribution to fighting terrorism in Kenya.

“You don’t realise the impact of Al-Shabab because you don’t see it so much on TV.

“Then they hit Kenya and that brought it closer to home.”

Captain Ongoma, who now lives in Beeston, delivered training in both English and Swahili.

She said: “To be able to teach in Swahili has been interesting for me because I’ve never done it before.

“It’s been a challenge translating some of the military terms and expressions into Swahili.”

Captain Ongoma has previously worked in a refugee camp in Kenya and provided humanitarian aid during the Congo and Rwanda crises.

She joined the British Army to continue her humanitarian work – and is currently a Nursing Officer with 212 Field Hospital based in Sheffield.

Captain Ongoma balances her work with the Army Reserve alongside her day job at Derbyshire Community Health Services.

She said: “There’s a good cross over between what I do in my day job and what I do with the Army Reserve.

“It’s a bit of a different skill set I need in the Army because we treat younger people than in the NHS.

“We deal with a lot more trauma, but nursing skills are the same regardless of the environment.”

Alongside delivering training, Captain Ongoma was also able to pay a festive visit to her son in their native Kenya.

It is the third time that 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment has delivered training in Uganda.

The aim of the training is to build the capacity and capability of the Ugandan People’s Defence Force so they can help bring long-term stability to Somalia.


“We make sure the scenarios are as gruesome as possible because I want them to be under no illusion that the worse can happen."