Marines, West Africans train for peace during Western Accord


During Exercise Western Accord 2012 (June 26 – August 7) in Thies, Senegal, U.S. Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen reservists trained and lived alongside their West African partners to build military interoperability and test their combined-operational capacity in an austere environment.

Western Accord is a multilateral training exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and led by U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa. The exercise featured U.S. Marine Reserve units from all-across the United States, to include: 4th Marine Division, 3rd Battalion 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Medical and Dental Battalions, Marine Wing Support Squadron 473, Vermont Army and Air National Guard, and augmenters from various other units across the nation.
“The partnership between American forces and African militaries is important because we have a lot of shared security interests, so we fight a lot of common enemies,” said General Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command.
“The more opportunity we have to work together, the more it makes both of our forces better; they always learn, we always learn,” Ham added.

The African nations participating in WA-12 belong to the Economic Community of West African States; a united front of African nations that have banded together for common economic benefit. Participating nations included the United States, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso and France.
“The importance of this particular exercise is, rather than one nation at a time, we are bringing together the entire region so that we can conduct training and exchange techniques and tactics,” said Colonel Anthony Fernandez III, the task force commander for WA-12.
“We have combined every part of the task force at every level from the headquarters cell down to the individual squads,” said Fernandez.

During Western Accord, the Marines and West African partners worked as a combined-nations task force to exchange techniques, tactics and procedures for a variety of situations; from basic infantry tactics to peacekeeping operations, limited-crises response, and humanitarian assistance.
“We are aiming, through this exercise, to take advantage of the ability to do work in multi-national planning and also learn to exchange methods and essentially develop partnerships,” said Senegalese Admiral Ousmane Ibrahima Sall, the deputy chief of staff for the Armed Forces of Senegal.

The training was divided into “training lanes.” These lanes would give Marines and partner nations the opportunity to work in smaller groups during the two-week evolution to ensure proper training procedures and the exchange of ideas where effective as possible between the six different nations.
“This is excellent; this is exactly how you get multi-national practice for operations,” added Sall.

Some of the training helped enhance basic infantry skills, such as the live-fire combat-marksmanship range and urban-combat training that taught the basic maneuvers proven effective in close-quarters battle, such as inside a building or through a busy city-center.

Another main factor of the training was procedures that helped build peacekeeping capacity and limited-crises response that might be encountered throughout the West African region.

The crowd-control training taught non-lethal weapons tactics and helped exchange procedures to peacefully quiet down civil unrest while the on-going humanitarian civil-assistance provided basic medical and dental services to the local population, as well as a civil affairs team that went out to help work on a mango farm. This aspect of Western Accord helps to bolster economic stability and build confidence in the military from the local population.
“This helps increase the regional security and the capabilities of the partner forces to help with those types of operations in their home countries,” said Fernandez.

Although, on the surface, military operations seem to be the end-state of the exercise, the infrastructure for such an event comes from the endearing relationships built between the U.S. and their partner forces.
“It is very important for the leadership and the soldiers on –the-ground to work together, share these practices, and build relationships,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brian Ross, the operations chief for Marine Forces Africa.
“We’ve developed a partnership with them and, if we can continue to train through military-to-military engagements, we have a relationship we can use as the building block to continue forward,” said Ross.
“The Marines will be taking home a new understanding of West Africa and the culture, the language, their military; it has given them the opportunity to deploy with foreign forces, along with all the considerations that go with that,” he added.

Western Accord is an evolution in a series of exercises on the African continent, conducted annually. The participating African countries invite U.S. military forces to train in bi-lateral and multi-lateral training events that help build interoperability between forces, build host-nation military capacity, promote regional stability, and build endearing partnerships. Some of the exercises include Shared Accord, Eastern Accord, Atlas Accord, Medical Accord, African Endeavor, and African Lion.
“As we conducted this exercise, and other ones on the continent, not only have we been able to meet our objectives but we have developed relationships,” said Fernandez.
“They want us to come back and do this again, so we’ve accomplished more than just the basic mission between our warriors.”