During June 26 to July 24, 2012, more than 1,200 military service men and women are participating in Western Accord, an inaugural exercise in Thiés, Senegal, designed to improve peacekeeping capabilities and proficiencies. Participating nations this year include Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, The Gambia and France, along with another 600 military personnel from the United States. Below are ten facts regarding the exercise.
1. Exercise Western Accord 2012 is a multi-lateral training exercise with West African nations to increase understanding and interoperability, prevent conflict by enabling Africans to provide for their security and stability, strengthen relationships with partner nations, and promote and support U.S. national security priorities. Task Force Commander, Colonel Anthony Fernandez, III said, “Our combined efforts and shared purpose will not only pave the way for future regional exercises but also forge a personal bond amongst our warriors.”
2. Western Accord 2012 is led by U.S. Marine Forces Africa and sponsored by U.S. Africa Command.
3. The exercise includes: live-fire and combat marksmanship training, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, and intelligence capacity building.
4. Concurrent with the exercise, U.S.military professionals from the Vermont Army National Guard, along with a Senegalese Medical Detachment, will provide medical assistance to the local residents in and around the communities of Dakar and Thiés.
5. The U.S. and African medical and dental staffs treated nearly 1,800 patients in Senegal during Western Accord 2012. “It’s a great opportunity,” said Air Force Captain Jason Galipeau, the project officer with the 158th Fighter Wing located in South Burlington, Virginia. “It feels great. It is something that will stick with [the service members] through their whole career.”
6. Participating U.S. forces include Marines from the 3rd Battalion and 25th Marine Regiment, who will be making up the primary element of the task force, along with reservists from all across the U.S. to include the 4th Medical Battalion, Vermont Army National Guard, and Marine Wing Support Squadron 473. “It’s been a really great experience being able to share and work with our African partners. I think it’s important for us to be on the same level of training as much as we can be,” said Lance Corporal Ryan M. Logan, an assistant gunner, Lima Company, 3/25.
7. One theme of the exercise is listening to the perspectives of African leaders and citizens. This enables participants to understand the challenges Africans face, to conduct programs in response to their requests, and to ensure their security needs are being met.
8. Western Accord is designed to provide combined arms training for ground combat elements while simultaneously providing humanitarian assistance to local residents.
9. As part of Western Accord 2012, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment will be spending time with joint forces from the various West African nations to train and exchange their shared experiences of non-lethal weapons and crowd-control tactics. “First thing we did was find out what kind of experiences they had because it’s a possibility they have more real-world experience in these kinds of scenarios than us. We also want to know what they can teach us,” said Sergeant Jonah L. Saylers, an instructor for non-lethal weapons and crowd control techniques from Lima Company, 3/25.
10. Distinguished visitors of Western Accord 2012 included: General Carter F. Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command; Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Jones, U.S. Defense Attaché to Senegal; Colonel Douglas Fairfeld, chief of staff for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa; The Honorable Robert Yamate, Charge d’Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar; Brigadier General Richard N. Harris Jr., chief of joint staff of the Vermont Air National Guard; Admiral Ousmane, Ibrahima Sall, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of Senegal; Brigadier General Pape Samba Kamara, chief of the Senegalese army; Brigadier General Gregoire Saint-Quentin, commander, French Elements in Senegal; Colonel Vinta Some, Burkina Faso Contingent commander, ECOWAS Standby Force; Abdoulie Kah, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Defense, Gambia; Brigadier General Namory Traore, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces, Guinea.