In what can only be seen as another challenge brought about by a tight budget, this year will see the SA Army’s major airborne assault exercise form part of a joint United States humanitarian exercise in the Eastern Cape.
According to Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, Exercise Young Eagle will be a South African only component of Exercise Shared Accord, the joint South African National Defence Force (SANDF)/US Armed Forces exercise scheduled to take place in late July and early August. Shared Accord is a peacekeeping and humanitarian exercise and this year sees its 13th iteration.
With the joint exercise taking place in Eastern Cape, it has been decided to include Exercise Young Eagle as a part of the overall exercise.
“While there will be Americans in South Africa for Exercise Shared Accord they will not be involved at any stage of Young Eagle,” Masondo said.
Another reason for staging the airborne assault component of Young Eagle as part of Shared Accord is that the army’s specialist airborne assault unit – 6 SA Infantry Battalion – is based in the Eastern Cape in Grahamstown.
Young Eagle has in the past been a stand-alone exercise staged at the Army’s De Brug training area outside Bloemfontein.
The landward force’s other major annual exercise – Seboka – will take place at the Army’s Combat Training Centre in Northern Cape in the fourth quarter of the year.
Masondo indicated planning of Army exercises for the year was well co-ordinated with other arms of service and divisions to “ensure optimal utilisation of available resources” across the entire SA National Defence Force.
In preparation for Shared Accord Colonel Vuka Sean Mahlasela, Officer Commanding 44 Parachute Regiment, and five other South African officers took part in a contingency command post (CCP) command post exercise (CPX) staged by Africom in Vicenza, Italy, in March. This was the first time US Army Africa incorporated a partner nation in an exercise prior to actually deploying on the continent.
Details of deployments and tasking for Shared Accord are currently being finalised and Mahlasela is confident it will go well thanks to the lessons learnt during the Italian CPX.
“Joint and multi-national operations have become the norm. National defence forces play a significant role to be able to operate with regional, international and multi-national forces to test tactics and share skills and knowledge as well as learn from each other.
“We learned from each other our different ways of completing the mission. We now know when challenges occur, we will learn how to mitigate circumstances and will create platforms to know each other on an individual basis and provide opportunities to share the different skills each force possesses,” he said at the end of the CPX.
His views were shared by Lieutenant Colonel Gus Claassens, a scenario drafter and exercise concept designer for Shared Accord.
“Mutual trust is important in exercises of this type. On the first level it develops the skills of own soldiers comparing them with a first world country and secondly, it enables international co-operation. This is essential because the SA Army is becoming more involved in Africa. At some point in the future we will end up working shoulder to shoulder,” he said following the Italian CPX.
Also upbeat following the CPX was Major Ivan Palacios, the US Army in Africa CCP CPX planner.
“The SANDF take back to their leadership how to better synchronise and collaborate with the US. This is the CPX success and it sets us up for long-term success during Shared Accord.”