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405th Brigade Support Battalion supports joint Ghana-U.S. exercise

July 14, 2011

By Spc. Jess Raasch, 116th Public Affairs Detachment

ACCRA, Ghana - The 405th Brigade Support Battalion of North Riverside, Ill., continues to play an active role in MEDFLAG 11 in Accra, Ghana July 13, 2011 by providing support to other units participating in the event.

Sponsored by U.S. Army Africa, the bilateral MEDFLAG 11 exercise will strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Ghana through 10 days of collaborative training and sharing of medical expertise, as well as joint humanitarian civic assistance in local communities.

MEDFLAG is the 405th BSB’s first mission as a unit, marking a great milestone of success for the team.

In October 2009, the Illinois National Guard began a transition process which disbanded some units and gave rise to the 405th BSB.

The role of the 405th is to coordinate and provide logistic, transportation, operational, communication and other support to ensure a smooth mission.

“[MEDFLAG] gives us real-world experiences in an actual command and control mission, which really is our job,” said Maj. Ronald Bonesz, the executive officer and Schaumburg, Ill., native.

The 405th started their role in MEDFLAG in January when about five members of their unit traveled to Accra to work with members of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and U.S. Army Africa to begin the planning process.

“This exercise is a great chance to oversee my staff so I know they can do what they need to do and are qualified for the job assigned to them,” said Bonesz.

During the initial planning conference, the joint team discussed possibilities for transportation and lodging while also getting to know each other and forming a bond.

“There was great cooperation and collaboration between the forces, which I hope sets a foundation for future missions of this type,” said Bonesz.

Further planning was completed during two more conferences in Ghana. The main planning conference occurred in March and all final planning was completed in May.

“Because of our cultural differences, we had to adjust our planning process to find a new way of completing the mission with the Ghanaians,” said Capt. Ivan Ortiz, supply officer for the 405th BSB, whose hometown is Minooka, Ill.

Aurora, Ill., native Sgt. 1st Class Tim Miller, the battalion senior supply sergeant, said, “We were able to blend our cultural differences to reach a common goal in the end.”

After MEDFLAG began, the role of the 405th switched from planning support to monitoring the support they worked hard to get into place.

“Our ultimate role is to work in partnership with the GAF and other Guard and Reserve Soldiers to have a successful mission,” said Miller.

Miller and his team work to make sure all participating units have supplies necessary to complete their mission of working with the GAF. Through this process, Miller has had the change to work directly with Ghanaian shop workers.

“We had a great field-ordering operation yesterday and were able to obtain information about where items are available, which is crucial to our mission,” said Sgt. Whitney Clever, an Island Lake, Ill., native and supply sergeant.

“Everyone has been so nice,” said Miller. “It has been great to work with them in this process.”

“The classes are going well, and we are learning a lot of great things,” said Lance Cpl. Gordon Oppong, a Ghanaian army soldier from the 37th Military Hospital in Accra. “It has been an interesting experience. It is important for us to share information, learn from each other, and be partners.”

Although this is the unit’s first mission, the 405th BSB has stepped up to the plate and delivered quality support to all teams involved.

“We are able to support not only ourselves but support the GAF and we have a lot of pride in that,” said Clever.

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