By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry DivisionAugust 22, 2013
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (Aug. 22, 2013) -- The curtain came down Aug. 5, on Shared Accord 2013, a bilateral training exercise between the U.S. military and South African Defense Forces, which involved more than 4,000 total troops performing a wide array of tasks from live-fire scenarios and airborne operations, to a large-scale humanitarian aid project.
Shared Accord is a biennial training exercise involving in-depth cohesion between U.S. and South African military forces involving multiple training scenarios designed to promote regional relationships, increase capacity and further cross-training and interoperability.
"It was a great exercise and we formed many personal and professional relationships that will help us to better conduct operations in the future," said Brig. Gen. Peter Corey, deputy commander of U.S. Army Africa. "We learned a lot from each other, so it was a very productive exercise for us."
Corey added that in addition to the exercise being a fruitful learning experience for both militaries, all the goals set prior were met.
"We absolutely did have a number of major training objectives and we certainly achieved all those training objectives," he said. "In addition, we learned a lot of new techniques for interoperability between ourselves and the SANDF (South African Defense Forces)."
The scope of the exercise was huge, with a range of operations occurring throughout the Eastern Cape province, and beyond.
"These included the tactical movement, a tactical air landing operation, and air assault, a beach landing, live-fire exercises as well as the provision of primary health capabilities and veterinary care," said Maj. Gen. Ephraim Phako, South African Army deputy chief of joint operations.
The humanitarian piece of the exercise, in which U.S., SANDF, and South African Department of Health personnel worked to aid thousands of citizens in the Bulembu area, served to lay the groundwork in the event of an unforeseen crisis within South Africa or further afield, he added.
"It is with anticipation that we await the final report on the outcome of the exercise," Phako said, "and I am already assured that the lessons learned will greatly enhance our ability to effectively respond to matters of humanitarian relief and human distress, both within South Africa and in the broader continental context."
Service members from both militaries forged close personal and professional ties during the three-week exercise.
"It's been awesome, we've had a really good time," said Staff Sgt. Michael Adams, a squad leader with Co. B, 1st Battalion,18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. "Everybody's been very welcoming. There are definitely some people I'd like to stay in touch with."
In his final remarks, Phako paid tribute to the combined efforts of all the service members involved in the planning and execution of the mission.
"I am well aware of the enormous amount of planning and forethought required for an operation of this magnitude, and the success of all aspects of the exercise is highly commendable and indeed, bears testimony not only to the rigor of our military and its men and women but also to the fruit which is borne through cooperative effort and energy," he said. "The slogan of the exercise -- a shared commitment to serve -- was definitely achieved."