Exercise Southern Accord, which began in 2012, is a joint exercise intended to enhance US and African forces' capabilities in the areas of humanitarian/disaster relief operations, peacekeeping operations, and aeromedical evacuation in sub-Saharan Africa. The Exercise is conducted annually to improve joint coalition interoperability and capabilities to respond to the most likely regional security and humanitarian situations. Following the initial exercise in 2012, subsequent iterations would continue to build on progress made during previous exercises in terms of participating nations' ability to conduct joint/multinational operations and improve multinational interoperability and capacity. The exercise is rooted in partnerships and recognizes the need for multinational solutions to common challenges ranging from transnational violent extremism to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The US had conducted similar exercises, including Exercise Shared Accord, elsewhere in Africa prior to starting Southern Accord.
In mid-2012, the Botswana Defence Force and the US Embassy announced that Botswana would host a joint military exercise known as Southern Accord 12, between 1 and 17 August 2012. The Exercise, led by US Army Africa, but involving members of the US Air Force and US Marine Corps, would involve approximately 700 Botswana Defense Force members and 700 American military personnel, and would take place on and around the Thebephatshwa Air Base. Joint exercise activities conducted during Southern Accord 12 would enhance the capabilities of military personnel for both countries in a variety of areas, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, anti-poaching, peacekeeping, and convoy operations, as well as aero-medical evacuation.
More than 1,200 military personnel from the Republic of Botswana and the United States attended the opening ceremony for Southern Accord 2012 on 1 August 2012. Each phase of the exercise aimed to enhance the interoperability between the US and Botswana Defense Forces. The ultimate goal was increased cooperation, which would in turn increase stability and security across the continent. Southern Accord 12 was also paired with Exercise MEDLITE 12, meaning that medical training conducted was in support of both exercises. Helicopter support for the exercise was provided in part by Company B, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, an element of the Hawaii Army National Guard, which brought 4 CH-47F Chinook Helicopters into Botswana for the first time ever.
Soldiers from the 909th Forward Surgical Team out of Fort Sheridan, Illinois, provided medical training to soldiers of the Botswana Defense Force on 2 August 2012, in Botswana as part of Southern Accord 2012. The 909th Forward Surgical Team was just one of the many units supporting the mission. Petroleum supply specialists from Company A, 405th Brigade Support Battalion, Illinois Army National Guard also deployed to join a combined team to handle more than 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 2,000 gallons of aviation fuel on the ground. The combined team was responsible for providing fuel for both ground and air assets during the exercise. Members of the 414th Contracting Support Brigade also deployed and provided contracting support and more in support of the US Africa Command joint exercise. The Brigade had 2 contracting officers deployed to Thebephatshwa Air Base, Botswana, in support of Southern Accord 12 by the end of August 2012.
Also, US soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors brought their medical know-how to the Southern Accord 12 exercise at Thebephatshwa Air Base, Botswana, sharing with their host-nation counterparts everything from initial battlefield medicine to medevac and aeromedevac techniques. The training culminated on 15 August 2012 with a mass casualty exercise, in which the Botswana medics watched their US trainers provide immediate, lifesaving care to simulated casualties, then moved them through progressive, escalating levels of care.
During Southern Accord 12, 3 explosive ordnance disposal bomb technicians from the 430th Ordnance Company (EOD), an element of the North Carolina Army National Guard. The Company's mission in Botswana was to clear a safe maneuver area at the Shoshong Range for US joint military forces and the Botswana Defense Forces to conduct training exercises on together. They also provided training on explosive hazards, improvised explosive devices, unexploded ordnance, and reconnaissance and chemical procedures, so both the BDF and U.S. military can sharpen their skills through a sharing of knowledge. The 3 technicians were detached from the rest of the 430th Ordnance Company (EOD), then deployed to Kuwait.
The 631st Engineer Company (Support) from Lawrenceville, Illinois, assisted Botswana Defense Force engineers in August 2012 with a road improvement and pond restoration project near Mkankake Village in the Republic of Botswana as part of Southern Accord 12. The road was a natural conduit for rainwater as it flows from high ground and therefore washes out sections of road, rendering it impassable. Concurrent to the road project was a pond restoration near the village, which is used to water livestock and meet small agricultural needs. As the road improvement team passed the pond restoration site, both teams would connect the drainage ditches from the road to the pond so there was more supply to keep the pond from drying up too early. The 631st Engineer Company would help to complete as much of the road as they can during their time in Botswana, and the Bostwana Defense Force would conclude the project after the Exercise ended.
A non-lethal weapons program was part of the training offered during Southern Accord 12. Non-lethal weapon skills were, however, just one type of training US Marines and soldiers deployed for the exercise. The trainers, most from the 4th Marine Division’s Company D, Antiterrorism Battalion and the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, were sharing expertise gained through real-world operations with what they call an impressively proficient Botswana Defense Force.
Southern Accord 12 ended on 16 August 2012. The purpose of the exercise, the first of a planned 7 iterations of Southern Accord to be hosted by Botswana, was to train both militaries in peace keeping operations in Sub-Saharan Africa. An ambitious training schedule covered the gamut, from tactical and peacekeeper training to humanitarian road building and medical outreach missions. A live-fire field training exercise concluded 3 weeks of intensive training exchanges. The scenario included a Botswanan-led air assault onto a landing zone, with Botswanan and US forces moving onto an objective to take out elements of a notional enemy force.
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