South African and US Marine forces will next month exercise jointly in Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth in the latest iteration of the American “Share Accord” exercises. Exercise Shared Accord 11 will take place in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole and Grahamstown from July 18 to August 12.
“The aim of Ex Shared Accord 11 is to provide collective training for the SANDF [South African National Defence Force] and US armed forces, building interoperability and mutual understanding between the two forces,” the SA military said in a statement this morning. All services of SANDF (SA Army, SA Air Force, SA Navy and SA Military Health Service) will be involved.
“The SA Army will exercise with elements of the US Marine contingent at 6 South African Infantry Battalion (6 SAI) in Grahamstown. Various SA Air Force and SA Navy components will be involved in exercises at sea along the southern coast,” the statement adds.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu last month said in a written answer to a Parliamentary question asked by Congress of the People Member of Parliament LJ Tolo that Shared Accord has been included in the multinational military force exercise programme for 2011/12 “and will be conducted within the allocated budget. The inclusion of Ex Shared Accord is a result of a consultation that took place between the SANDF and the specific partner premised on an existing Defence Committee Agreement.”
US naval medical personnel and the SA Military Health Service will also render medical assistance to the Kleinskool community in conjunction with the provincial Department of Health. “They will perform basic dental care, hygiene and tooth extractions, provide basic primary health care to adults and children and also provide basic refractory evaluations and dispense eyeglasses (spectacles).
“There will be veterinarian personnel from both forces working in conjunction with the SPCA in providing services to the communities of Kwa Nobuhle and Allenridge for their domesticated pets and livestock,” the statement added.
The SA Engineer Corps and US Marine Corps combat engineers will also erect “a structure at the SPCA in Uitenhage” and ensure drainage around the local community pound.
Ex Shared Accord is an annually scheduled, combined, bi-lateral US-partner nation event. Previous editions of Ex Shared Accord were hosted in Benin, Ghana, Senegal and Mozambique. Shared Accord is one of 14 annual multinational exercises the US conducts on the continent, and one of two involving South Africa, according to an Africa Command fact sheet. The other exercise is Southern Warrior, a “small unit regional training exercise tailored to specific unit and country needs to build regional cooperation. Slated for the South African winter and spring, US AFRICOM supports the deployment phase of the exercise. Shared Accord, meanwhile, “trains US and African forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in sub-Saharan Africa,” the fact sheet adds.
Last year’s edition of Shared Accord took place in neighbouring Mozambique’s southern Moamba province. According to the UPI news service, some 1000 US service personnel and Mozambican soldiers participated.”
Bilateral military exercises involving SA and the US are somewhat uncommon because of political attitudes in the former, but are not as rare as may be thought. A battalion of US Rangers deployed to De Brug, Bloemfontein,in July 2003 for Flintlock 2003 with the SA Army’s 44 Parachute Regiment. The July, US forces returned for Exercise Medflag 2004 at Hoedpruit Air Force Base in Mpumalanga. The exercise involved some 250 US Air Force personnel conducting various evolutions including interoperability training, humanitarian and civic assistance visits, as well as a mass-casualty exercise with the SA Military Health Service and SA Air Force.
“Passage exercises” with passing and visiting US warships are more common and SA has reportedly also joined the African Partnership Station (APS), a US-led effort to improve maritime security along the African east and west coasts. APS training focuses on a broad range of areas, including maritime law enforcement, search and rescue capabilities, civil engineering and logistics, and navigation.
Shared Acccord will likely be the largest SA-USMC collaboration since Exercises Amity I and II in the early 1960’s, involving a beach assault at Bloubergstrand and parachute drops in the Milnerton area of Cape Town, much less developed then than now.
The most visible recent visit was that of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) to Cape Town in October 2008. The Roosevelt’s visit was the first by a US aircraft carrier since the 1950s and the first to Cape Town by a nuclear-powered ship since the German cargo ship the Otto Hahn in the 1970s. This as followed up in January the next year by the visit of the USS Robert G Bradley, an Oliver Hazard Perry glass guided missile frigate assigned to the APS programme, in July by the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), nameship of a class of destroyers to Durban and Simon’s Town and that November by the visit of the Los Angeles-class nuclear powered attack submarine USS San Juan (SSN-751), also to Simon’s Town.
More recently, the USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29), a Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate visited Simon’s Town in February this year and participated in a “joint-manoeuvring exercise” with the Heroine-class submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke (S-102).