How Killing for the First Time Affects an Officer's Life - Ex-KDF Soldier

KDF officers in a military operation in Laikipia in November 2021

Former Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) special soldier has opened up on the experience of taking the shoot-to-kill order for the first time and the effect thereafter.

Speaking to a local TV station on Friday, November 12, the former soldier narrated that while on the battlefield, some circumstances force them to engage the enemy (perceived or actual) in a shootout. He added that the duel comes with a lot of emotional effects to those taking the shots for the first time.

He narrated that taking the shoot-to-kill order from the commander of the team is associated with a lot of trauma. He noted that soldiers, just like any other person, end up harbouring those tense and intense emotions.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with a hammock seat cane when he visited the multi-agency team of Kenyan security officers Lamu County on July 21, 2021

Some overcome and absorb such trauma with ease while others freeze for some time and may take longer to recover from the mental, emotional and psychological disturbance. But before a soldier is deployed to the field, they must undergo intensive training to prepare them for such eventualities.

The training involves a lot of physical training that requires mental and physical perseverance, with the trainers taking the trainees through intense workouts such as crawling on the ground in a technical format as well as operating firearms.

The shoot-to-kill order is issued on a battlefield when a soldier has no other option but to defend themselves or neutralise the enemy.  

The modern battlefield is characterised by serious injuries, including critical and incapacitating wounds, multiple amputations, and severe burns among soldiers and civilians caught up in the war.

According to the soldier, they undergo intensive training that helps them absorb battlefield effects. The training is called body simulation.

"There is always a first time to everything. My first time was during the Sabaot Land Defense forces. I was the first person to be shot at for the first time. That shocks you, but with proper training and the right state of mind, a soldier is able to recover quickly," he stated.

"But the freeze time varies. Some take time to recover while others freeze faster. But soldiers, just like normal human beings, are wired to live a soft life, but it takes some tenacity for them to handle the trauma."

The soldier, however, noted that after such experience, one hardens but most of them are affected in their lifetime.

In the latest initiative launched by the government, KDF soldiers are now able to receive prolonged care for combat-related physical injuries and psychological trauma.

According to research done by Do Something Organisation, 30 per cent of soldiers develop mental problems within 3 to 4 months of going back home from the camps or battlefronts. 

But with the right measures being put in place, the forces are undertaking measures to curb such cases among officers.

KDF Soldiers During A Mission
KDF Soldiers During A Mission
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