He has only been US Africa Command (Africom) commander since April but General David Rodriguez has achieved what his predecessor did not – a visit to South Africa.
In just over two years as the United States’ top military man on the continent, albeit based in Germany, General Carter F Ham made 101 trips to Africa, visiting 42 countries but not South Africa.
His successor used the just ended Exercise Shared Accord, a combined US/SA peacekeeping and humanitarian exercise, to break the mould.
Speaking in Port Elizabeth, Rodriguez said he met with leadership of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the opportunity was used to “get a better sense for security and defence related issues”.
“The partnership we have with South Africa is an important one as our nations share a number of security interests focused on bringing peace and stability to the whole of Africa.
“The Shared Accord exercise builds on successes and lessons learned during previous events, conducted to establish and develop a strong military partnership between the US and South Africa. These exercises promote regional relationships, increase capacity and enhance cross-training and inter-operability between our militaries. In the end, this exercise provided our militaries with the skills required to enable readiness in support of peacekeeping operations and responding to disasters.
“Our countries’ militaries share a steeped history of partnering that precedes US Africa Command. For decades the US has partnered with African militaries in capacity-building events through exercises like Shared Accord. Through these engagements the US demonstrates its long-term commitment to South Africa and the entire continent,” Rodriguez said.
During the two week long exercise, concentrated on the Eastern Cape, South African soldiers and their American counterparts took part in a live fire operations, conducted airborne and dismounted infantry tactics as well as amphibious assaults, peacekeeping operations and disaster response.
More than 3 000 SANDF troops took part in the exercise with over 700 American soldiers of different musterings alongside them.