Approximately 600 U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen, along with about 600 African partner-nation troops, have officially kicked off Exercise Western Accord 2012.
Western Accord 2012 (WA-12), which commenced with a combined forces opening ceremony on Monday, is a multi-national exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of West African tactics, techniques and procedures.
“Our combined efforts and shared purpose will not only pave the way for future regional exercises but also forge a personal bond amongst our warriors,” said Colonel Anthony Fernandez III, the Task Force commander for WA-12.
The Senegalese leader, Brigadier General Papa Samba Kamara, Senegal Army Chief of Staff said, “Western Accord 2012 is the way to build unified strength to protect and defend the West African community. This cooperation should help the different units involved to enhance their capacities and perfect their knowledge to build peace.”
Western Accord 2012 is sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and led by Marine Forces Africa. The multi-lateral training exercise includes: live-fire and combat marksmanship training, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, intelligence capacity building, as well as a humanitarian-civic assistance project that will provide primary medical assistance to the local population.
The exercise hopes to increase U.S. and African nations’ interoperability and understanding of each other’s capabilities and proficiency, enhancing the ability to operate together in limited crises response and overseas contingency operations.
“The next two weeks will be challenging as we work together,” said Fernandez. “Together we shall exchange ideas, plan, train, and learn side-by-side.”
Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment will be making up the primary element of the task force along with reservists from all across the U.S. to include the 4th Medical Battalion, Vermont Army National Guard, and Marine Wing Support Squadron 473. Participating African nations include Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Gambia.
“Our reward will be the successful completion of the exercise and the shared experiences we will gain,” added Fernandez.
Although the exercise is new to Senegal, these exercises have been successful in other parts of the continent and prepares service members for real-world scenarios. Gunnery Sergeant Brian Ross, Operations Chief of Marine Forces Africa said, “We’ve seen great demonstrations of interoperability between the Marine Corps and partner nation forces, whether they are large scale CJCS exercises like African Lion or Shared Accord to small engagements involving two or three Marines.”
The objectives of Western Accord 2012 include:
* Prepare U.S. and West African forces for stability operations
* Conduct Humanitarian Assistance operations and improve West African Nations capability to respond to complex Humanitarian Emergencies
* Train U.S. forces to operate in an austere environment alongside partner nations
* Enhance training facilities for future operations
Infantry battalions from the various nations are the primary training audience for this exercise, however, there is a large humanitarian civic assistance program consisting of both medical and dental cadres that require expertise from various supporting units throughout the U.S.
The combined exercise involves nearly 600 U.S. service members and approximately 600 members of the Armed Forces of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Gambia and France. It is coordinated by Marine Forces Africa.