The first full week of joint South African/US peace support and peacekeeping training has moved seamlessly from the command post table top part of Exercise Shared Accord through to on the ground grunt work raging from intelligence gathering to area dominance patrols and dealing with IEDs.
The 2017 edition of the exercise is the first to be conducted at the SA Army Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Northern Cape and the first to be a hands-on exercise in terms of two separate chapters of the broader UN manual on peacekeeping missions. Previous Shared Accord exercises were confined to humanitarian operations and the shift up to “actual operations has seen an excellent level of commitment from all involved” Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Staff Officer, Operational Communication, SANDF Joint Operations Division, told defenceWeb from Lohathla.
“This year’s Shared Accord is a more robust exercise than previous iterations,” he said adding the American and South African troops taking part were all working hard to prove their mettle and make the exercise a success.
This approach saw the table top command post exercise completed with “one or two hitches, but these were sorted showing a willingness to co-operate for the better”.
Next item on the exercise agenda was the start of the field training exercise with deployments for surveillance and intelligence gathering followed by area dominance patrols, convoy escort duties, casualty evacuation and, importantly, how to deal with child soldiers and negotiating with rebel representatives.
“These two aspects are new to South African troops and with a company from 21 SA Infantry Battalion taking the opposition forces (Opfor) role well both our troops and the Americans learnt a lot,” Paxton said.
Another new drill saw soldiers having to deal with “rebels” who surrender. “They are technically not prisoners of war but have to be detained in a humanitarian manner and be fed and housed.”
Preparatory training is underway for the final stages of the exercise – a live fire platoon level attack on a rebel encampment.
“This will see, in addition to standard issue personal weapons, the use of Javelin and other rockets as well as 60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortars with troops making use of explosives as part of break and entry techniques into hostile-held facilities”.
The US contingent is from the US Army 101st Airborne Division, deployed under the auspices of US Army Africa. They are supported by a company from 2 SA Infantry Battalion and a platoon from the SA Navy Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) with21 SAI the enemy.
“What we’ve seen so far is Shared Accord 2017 is not a plastic exercise. All involved are committed and working hard to make it a success,” Paxton said.
The exercise ends on August 4.