Southern Accord, a joint exercise intended to enhance the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and peacekeeping capabilities of Botswana and the United States, has kicked off with an opening ceremony attended by more than 1 200 military personnel.
The ceremony was held at Thebephatshwa Air Base, Botswana, on August 1. Brigadier General David Dikobe, the assistant chief of Staff, Training and Doctrine, Botswana Defence Force, said that, “Peace support operations have lately become obligations which can neither be wished away by anybody nor any country. To this end, humanitarian operations are closer to the military than ever before in the history of mankind. To remain a relevant and trusted partner, training of this nature cannot be overestimated.”
Each phase of the exercise aims to enhance the interoperability between the U.S. and Botswana Defence Forces, the US military said. The ultimate goal is increased cooperation, which will in turn increase stability and security across the continent.
“In a little over two weeks, as you emerge from this exercise, both Botswana forces and the US forces will be better trained, more capable and more importantly, you will know each other in ways you did not before,” said Michelle Gavin, US Ambassador to Botswana, who attended the ceremony. “To everyone participating in the exercise, I want to challenge you to learn as much as you can, please stay safe, enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow soldiers, and build some relationships which will last.”
Representing the US is a diverse group of service members from many different kinds of units such as medical, infantry, public affairs and veterinary, and many more.
“The three things I’d like you to remember are: building relationships is important, improving processes and capabilities always matters and success is repeatable,” said Brigadier General Isaac Osborne, deputy commander, US Army Africa. “As we work together side-by-side, the relationships, knowledge and skills that will be shared will benefit our militaries and our nations, today and in the future.”
In light of today’s political and security environment, both countries agree it is more important than ever to train together so they can operate more effectively.
“This exercise comes at a time when the world faces numerous challenges,” said Dikobe, “ranging from natural disasters like drought to civil wars and terror attacks. I therefore urge you to make the most of this exercise, so you can contribute towards making the world a safer place to live.”
Southern Accord runs between August 1 and 17 and involves 700 Botswana Defence Force (BDF) members and 700 American military personnel.
The United States has in the past two years conducted similar joint military exercises with African countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Tunisia, Uganda, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In partnership with the Botswana Defence Force, U.S. Air Forces Africa will take part in Medlite 12. Medlite 12 is the latest in a series of exercises involving U.S. military forces and partner militaries in Africa with the aim to establish and develop military interoperability, regional relationships, synchronization of effort and capacity-building. The exercise will improve the readiness of both countries’ medical personnel and will consist of classroom instruction, a mass casualty and aero-medical evacuation exercise.
Additionally, BDF and U.S. personnel will conduct outreach programs in several rural communities, including Malwelwe, Mantshwabisi, Sernane and Mowane. These outreach activities will include dental and medical examinations, veterinary assistance as well as other medical procedures.