“Ready! Position! Charge one, elevation 11-38,” said the mortar team as they readied to launch an 81mm training mortar during a cross-training exercise between U.S. and Zambian Soldiers on Aug. 5, at the Nanking Training Area in Zambia.
The commands could be from any U.S. Army mortar team but these were delivered by the mortarmen of the Zambian Defense Force during Southern Accord 2015, an annual exercise aimed to increase interoperability between U.S. and African partner nation forces, US Army Africa said.
“We have this type of cohesion even though we’re different armies,” said Spc. Chris E. Vong, of San Jose, Calif., a mortarman assigned to A Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment.
Their roles as mortarmen and as Soldiers helped bridge any cultural gap, said Vong.
The initial meet-and-greet between the two militaries began with slow conversations but swiftly turned into easy and open discussions about their hometowns and experiences as mortarmen, said Vong.
“They’re old school in their tactics, but they’re a lot like us,” said Vong. “Some of their NCOs have 20-plus years of being a mortarman; we’ve taught each other new techniques.”
Dry runs and rehearsals kicked off the exercise, culminating in a live-fire event. Two mortar crews from each country fired 81mm high-explosive mortars at a target approximately 1500 meters from their position. Leading each mortar team were experienced officers and Soldiers.
“There is a similarity, maybe not in terms of technology, but as the army, our training is almost the same,” said Staff Sgt. Lubinda Mufngulwa, a ZDF non-commissioned officer.
Despite differences in technology and equipment between the two armies, their fighting spirit is “on the same foot,” said Mufngulwa.
In bridging the cultural gap, both US and Zambian Soliders commented on the challenge of a minor language barrier. Although English is the official language in Zambia, there are many different dialects and other languages; among them Bemba and Nyanja are two of the major languages commonly spoken in the country.
Spending days with each other around the clock, Soldiers from both militaries identifed with one another as professionals and realized they shared the same values of respect, loyalty and commitment, US Army Africa said.
Lance Cpl. Pythiaus Zulu, a ZDF Soldier, said that regardless of language, their roles as professional Soldiers allowed the U.S. and Zambian forces to communicate as commrades-in-arms.
“I’m sure whether we are an English-speaking country or not, we could communicate and we would not have a problem,” said Zulu.
For Zulu, a rifleman who has deployed three times, Southern Accord 2015 was his first multi-cultural, joint exercise.
“You know, we just feel we are one,” said Zulu. “This exercise is helping us, both Americans and Zambians.”
Southern Accord 15 is a joint-training exercise funded by US Africa Command. AFRICOM’s Army component, US Army Africa, leads the US military planning and execution on the ground. This year, Southern Accord has more than 800 participants from 10 participating nations: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, U.S. and Germany.
The aim of the exercise is to enhance U.S. and African forces’ capabilities and increase their ability to operate together in support of peacekeeping operations.