A myriad of military uniforms graced the parade field as more than a dozen nations stood side-by-side to mark the opening of Western Accord 2015 at Harskamp, The Netherlands, on July 20.
U.S. Brig. Gen. Kenneth H. Moore Jr., deputy commanding general U.S. Army Africa, and Dutch Brig. Gen. Gino van der Voet, director of training and operations, Royal Netherlands Army Command, welcomed African, European and American service members to a 12-day United Nations-derived, command post exercise.
“This exercise will be a rigorous event that will involve nearly 200 military and civilian participants,” said Moore. “The exercise is patterned after the existing United Nations mission in Mali and designed to increase the ability of participants to execute similar missions in the future.”
Based on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, the exercise is divided into two phases. First, an academic portion focused on the military planning, peacekeeping and current United Nations operations. The second phase focuses on operations where partner nation staffs apply the academics in a computer-simulated United Nations mission.
According to Moore, Western Accord plays an important role in maintaining decades of African-U.S. military partnerships.
“This exercise is a key element to a broader series of military-to-military exercises that demonstrate the strong partnership between the U.S., The Netherlands, Africa and all other participating African and European partners,” said Moore.
Originally planned to take place in Liberia, Western Accord moved to Netherlands after an Ebola outbreak there in 2014.
Voet said hosting the exercise in The Netherlands was, “an easy yes.”
“The Netherlands is very committed to the African continent,” said Voet. “Not only do we have good relationships with our African partners, we are committed to many operations including those in Mali, Sudan and Somalia.”
As various staff elements exercise together to build capabilities between the nations of Western Accord, Moore stressed there’s a stronger reason for the exercise — the human element.
“Above all, most importantly, I want all the participants to develop long-term professional relationships,” said Moore. “These relationships will last long after the exercise is concluded. It is through developing teamwork, trust and confidence in participant nations that we will overcome any obstacle.”
Voet stressed the commitment has overcome the obstacles of the past and will deal with challenges of the future.
“We’ve been allies for many years and have shared many fields of battle. When it comes down to our mission we are all a band of brothers,” Voet said.