A total of 60 Special Forces soldiers from the United States and Botswana have came together for the first combined field training exercise in 10 years for Exercise Eastern Piper 12.
The exercise, held between June 1 and 25 and conducted by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAF), was a three week Foreign International Defense (FID) structured counter-terrorism base exercise, which took place at the Thebepatswa Air Base in Gaborone, Botswana.
U.S. Special Forces soldiers from 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Fort Carson, Colorado, trained with the Botswana Defense Forces Special Forces (BDFSF) on marksmanship, close quarter battle, medical and tracking training in an effort to strengthen U.S. and BDFSF relationships and to promote and support Special Operations Capabilities, said Master Sergeant Grady Dewitt, noncommissioned officer in charge for SOCAFRICA Exercise Branch.
“It is great seeing forces in Africa excel when working shoulder to shoulder with American Forces. The BDF has shown time and time again that they are a professional military force capable of handling their own affairs,” Dewitt said.
Eastern Piper began with a week of U.S. Special Forces-led combat marksmanship (CMMS) training where BDFSF soldiers perfected their ability to engage targets with precision using their submachine guns and pistols. The second week of the exercise consisted of close quarter battle (CQB) with breaching techniques, such as manual breaching, ballistic breaching and explosive breaching.
Major Nathan Swindler, commander, Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 10th SFG (Airborne), said he was able to gain a firsthand appreciation for the BDFSF’s selfless service to their nation.
“The exercise was a fantastic opportunity to share tactics, techniques, and procedures with one of the finest Special Operations Forces in Africa, and the professionalism and proficiency of the BDFSF made the exercise extremely rewarding. While working, training, eating and billeting with our BDFSF partners, we discovered that our organizations and our hardships are quite similar,” Swindler said.
Also during week two, U.S. Special Forces received training on the theory and practical application of combat tracking led by the BDFSF.
“In addition to gaining a better understanding of the intricacies of combat tracking, the BDFSF reinforced that it is training, not technology, that sets Special Operation Forces apart from their peers. The BDFSF lack a lot of the technology that U.S. soldiers are accustomed to having, but they remain able to successfully accomplish highly complex operations,” Swindler said.
The final week of Eastern Piper included a visit by the U.S. Ambassador for Botswana, the U.S. Secretary of the Army, and the BDF Assistant Chief of Staff for Training and Doctrine. After the visit, the U.S. Special Forces and BDFSF conducted a combined parachute jump from a BDF C-130 aircraft.
Major Jason Farmer, foreign area officer for the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC), U.S. Embassy Gaborone, Botswana, said these military-to-military events are the key to building mature partnership and capacity between our two nations’ militaries.
“It was a great opportunity to see both of the Special Forces soldiers re-establish a relationship and partnership after a decade of little to no interaction. They [BDFSF] proved to be a formidable force, and really demonstrated a high level of capability and discipline. Soldiers [on both sides] expressed gratitude for the high level of proficiency demonstrated by both forces, which enabled the exercise to provide valuable shared training. It was evident that we both welcomed the renewed engagement, and hope that it will continue in the future. We hope that this will be the catalyst for many more shared exercises and partnerships,” Farmer said.