Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) conducted a three-day joint situational training exercise (STX) with South African National Defense Forces (SANDF) here, July 26-28 as part of Exercise Shared Accord 2013.

Shared Accord 13 is a biennial joint exercise between the South African and U.S. militaries meant to increase capacity and enhance interoperability between the two forces. This is the second time this type of exercise has been conducted by the two forces--the first occurring in 2011.

"We are conducting these types of exercises to learn," said Maj. Chuck Slagle, executive officer of 2nd ABCT. "We're not training them on anything. We're improving each other through this exercise."

The STX lanes included squad movements, platoon attacks, react-to-contact and taking down the objective.

"Our mission was to attack two buildings at the base of the hill which housed insurgents," said Army Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Prattis, a Co. B squad leader. "We were a base of fire for second squad until they bounded up and then second squad provided cover for us while we took down the objective and set up for a counterattack."

SANDF Soldiers then flanked to the right and conducted an assault on insurgents further up the hill.

"Once our U.S. partners set up for a counterattack, our mission was to move up the hill and conduct dismounted tactical movements and platoon attacks to take down the remaining objectives," said SANDF Lt. Nkosiyethu Calvin Ndaza, a platoon leader with the 9th South African Infantry. "Being able to communicate with them helped us out a lot."

Situational training is intended to strengthen the tactical responses and capabilities of the forces, said Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Hodge, a platoon sergeant with Co. B, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. Also, they can be an effective tool for building relationships and breaking down any cultural barriers that might exist.

"From the beginning of the exercise to the end of the exercise, the communication between us was always open," said Hodge. "[The SANDF] did not hesitate to ask questions for a better understanding of how we operate. I feel this is what made the exercise run so smoothly."

For his part, Ndaza agreed that the mission went well and is hoping that future opportunities to work with the U.S. come to pass.
"This was a great training experience for me," said Ndaza. " I learned a lot from them and I am looking forward to working with them again."