SA, US troops practise for joint peace-deployment
MORE than 1 000 South African and US soldiers are busy learning to work with each other – should they ever have to do a UN peacekeeping mission together.
The soldiers from 2 SA Infantry Battalion and the SA Navy’s Maritime Reaction Squadron along with members of the 101st Airborne Division, US Marine Corps Reserve and assorted US National Guard (military reservists) have been joined by senior officers rehearsing potential UN-mandated peacekeeping operations on the continent over the last 10 days at the SANDF’s combat training centre (CTC) in Lohatla in the Northern Cape.
As US Brigadier-General William Prendergast explained yesterday: “There’s a saying that we should not be exchanging business cards when the disaster occurs, but rather meeting beforehand.”
The exercise is titled Shared Accord, an annual meeting between elements of US Army Africa and other African armies, which returns to South Africa every three years. Next year, Exercise Shared Accord will be held in Rwanda.
Prendergast’s co-exercise director, SANDF Brigadier-General Gustav Lategan stressed that the exercise is part of an ongoing bilateral agreement between Washington and Pretoria regarding military co-operation and is not part of the SANDF’s peacekeeping duties in terms of its AU responsibilities.
“We have been sharing lessons learnt from our current peacekeeping experiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo and utilising 2 SAI (SA Infantry) in particular, for training on this exercise as this is the next battalion to be placed on standby for peacekeeping as part of the AU stand-by force.”
In turn, the US military has been teaching the SANDF officers and soldiers how it combats the use of improvised explosive devices against it, which it has experienced in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This is our opportunity to train our younger soldiers that have not seen this type of warfare before, for when they do deploy,” said Prendergast.
Training over the past 10 days has included being ambushed, taking casualties and evacuating them, guarding camps for displaced persons and safely running convoys.
The exercise culminates next Wednesday with a live-fire exercise at the CTC using soldiers from both countries side-by-side.