Posts Tagged 'exercise'

Dispatch from Africa: Driving in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

MC1 Steve Owsley, a journalist with U.S. Africa Command, is covering the Burkina Faso Pandemic Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise. The exercise, which runs May 14-18, 2012, brings together representatives from African nations, international aid organizations, and AFRICOM to practice preparation and planning in the event of a pandemic disaster, such as an influenza pandemic. MC1 Owsley sent us this dispatch as a glimpse into everyday life in Burkina Faso. Look for his stories on the tabletop exercise coming soon to our website. Read a short intro to the event here.

15 May 2012
MC1 Steve Owsley
U.S. Africa Command

The flight deck of the an aircraft carrier has been described as a chaotic and dangerous ballet: hundreds of moving parts and people, but everyone knows where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing. I’ve never seen anything like it — until I saw how people drive in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.

The roads were pretty good. They aren’t nearly as complicated as roads in the United States or Europe. Typically, they consist of a broken center line to separate two lanes of traffic and solid white lines on the left and right edges to show where the road ends.

While the roads sound simple, navigating them is not.

I was lucky to be with a group with professional hired drivers. Typically, these drivers were young men who had been driving for years. They were friendly, professional and absolutely essential to getting around in Bobo-Dioulasso.

The traffic is a mixture of cars, motorcycles, motor scooters, bicycles and carts pulled by both people and small burros.

Somehow, everyone seems to co-exist peacefully. There’s a sort of unspoken cooperation that keeps traffic moving with nearly no confrontation. Our professional drivers would lightly tap the horn to let a scooter driver know we were approaching. Without hand gestures or yelling, both SUV drivers and bicyclists took and yielded the right of way.

In the apparent chaos of the traffic, you see a pattern emerge: Everyone seems to know where they belong.

That being said, I wouldn’t want to inject myself into the traffic tangle. It made me appreciate our driver, who calmly eased our vehicle among the bicyclist, motorcycles, scooters and carts. If it sounds chaotic, it’s nothing compared to what it looks like if you’re seeing it for the first time.

10 Things About Atlas Accord 2012

BT-67 air drop during Atlas Accord 2012

MOPTI, MALI -- A Malian Air Force BT-67 drops helicopter boxes as part of aerial re-supply training during operation Atlas Accord near Mopti, Mali on Feb. 13, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mark Henderson)

1. The Atlas Accord is an annual exercise that brings together U.S. Army personnel with militaries in Africa.

2. More than 300 military members and seven nations joined the exercise this year from Feb. 7 to 15, 2012.

3. Last year, Uganda hosted the exercise, which was called Atlas Drop.

4. Atlas Accord 2012 focused on enhancing air drop capabilities and ensures effective delivery of military resupply materials and humanitarian aid.

5. The learning goes both ways. “I learned they do a lot with a little. I don’t know how they handle trauma situations but, it’s impressive how they do it,” said Staff Sergeant Anthony P. Baca, an 807th MDSC Army healthcare specialist.

There have been challenges, but the Malians were very resourceful, said U.S. Army Capt. Bob V. Luthor from Huntington, W. Va., a team leader with Co. C, 2nd Bn., 19th SFG (Abn.). They removed a second set of pilot flight controls from one of the smaller aircraft to fit the supplies and personnel to drop them.

A cordon set up during Atlas Accord 2012

MOPTI, MALI — A Malian airmen set up a cordon around a helicopter box as part of the air drop recovery training with the 2/19th Special Forces as part of operation Atlas Accord 2012, near Mopti, Mali on Feb. 13, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mark Henderson)

6. African troops learned how to secure a drop zone in adverse conditions.  “The training was really interesting,” said Malian Army Sgt. Oumar Traore, as airborne infantryman.

“The 19th SFG taught us to set-up the operational readiness platform, to send out reconnaissance patrols, and establish security at the drop zone. We’ve learned how to conduct these operations under any circumstances. This exercise also helps us work with troops from other nations,” he said.

7. Atlas Accord also included a medical component. “We are training with the Malian medical personnel on different types of equipment that include cervical braces, finger splints, ring cutters, pressure bandages, back boards and more,” said Maj. Dean A. Nelson, a family physician and Wendell, Idaho native assigned to the 328th CSH, 807th MDSC.

MOPTI, MALI — U.S. Army Maj. Dean A. Nelson, 807th Medical Deployment Support Command, Fort Douglas, Utah, and Wendell, Idaho native, explains the use of a battery powered cauterizer pen to Malian Medical Defense Forces Col. Youssouf Treore, in Mopti, Mali, Feb. 7. The 807th MDSC were in Mali as medical support during Atlas Accord 12. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Trumbull)

8. The U.S. medics are also training, in a sense, on how to be better trainers. “The training will help our medics become better since they are teaching the Malians through interpreters and have to move slowly and ensure they are understood; it gives them a better understanding of the training they are providing,” said Lt. Col. David H. Moikeha, an emergency physician, and Coppell, Texas native, assigned to the 94th Combat Support Hospital, 807th MDSC.

 9. Thanks to the exercise, the Malian military will be able to improve its trauma care. “We receive so much trauma from highway accidents, military and civilian,” said Malian Army Col. Youssouf Treore, commander of the medical detachment in Mopti. “The equipment we have will help us care for the trauma patients we receive at our level.”

10. The exercise’ impact will reach far beyond February 2012. The pathfinder training during Atlas Accord 12 can potentially help future joint operations between partner nations to deliver humanitarian supplies safely to those in need.

— Compiled from various reports, including from Utah Army National Guard, Soldiers Radio News, U.S. Army Africa, AFRICOM, and others.

Interested in learning more? Check out:

Audio
Radio report on Atlas Accord from Soldiers Radio News (MP3)

Video
Overview at the Close of Atlas Accord from Soldiers Radio News
Troops train on 4 aerial delivery systems
Training on FARP(Forward Arming and Refueling Point), as easy-access point in austere conditions (video)

Stories
U.S., Malian military medics train to save lives
Pathfinders ‘get the goods’


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