By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOM Public AffairsApril 15, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 15, 2014) -- The U.S. Army is building relationships with its African partners while gaining valuable training experience on the continent, officials said following Central Accord 14 in Cameroon.
Maj. Brent Odom, a science and technology advisor assigned to U.S. Army Africa, said CA 14 focused on improving U.S. and partner-nation capacity to respond to a humanitarian crisis and work together in peacekeeping operations.
"Participating in the exercise offered an opportunity to build relationships with the Soldiers I support and obtain immediate feedback on technology gaps or problematic equipment," said Odom, who is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Field Assistance in Science and Technology team.
The United States joined Cameroon, Burundi, Chad, Gabon, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo and the Netherlands for the exercise. More than 1,000 military and civilian personnel, including about 450 U.S. Soldiers, participated.
The exercise kicked off March 11 with four days of academic training in Douala, followed by a five-day situational training exercise in Koutaba. The exercise's concept of operation was to establish a coalition joint tactical operations center in Douala to support operations in Koutaba, about 185 miles away.
Odom said CA 14 objectives included improving interoperability between the United States and Central African partners, training U.S. Soldiers to operate in an austere environment, and preparing troops to support medical disaster response, aeromedical evacuation and aerial resupply.
RDECOM's 30 science advisors, both uniformed officers and Army civilians, provide a link between Soldiers and the command's thousands of subject matter experts.
As a FAST advisor, Odom's role at CA 14 was to seek out technology gaps by talking to Soldiers with a variety of military occupational specialties. Operations in Africa present unique issues, he said.
"Exercises and operations in Africa are typically in harsh environments with numerous logistics, sustainment and communication challenges," Odom said. "Science advisor participation in exercises in Africa is an excellent way to canvas different units coming from the United States for their technology issues, for gaining an appreciation for challenges associated with the operating environment and developing the necessary relationships to be able to support U.S. Army Africa."
The Africans were especially interested in communications equipment and combat life-saving devices, including high-frequency radios for communication over long distances and tourniquets with pneumatic pressure points, Odom said.
RDECOM demonstrated its Modular Operational Ration Enhancement, known as MORE, from Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center's Combat Feeding Directorate. American Soldiers and Marines and Dutch Soldiers tried the rations, and Odom said feedback was positive.
The MORE is designed to provide extra calories and quick energy for extreme hot or cold environments. It consists of products such as caffeinated chocolate pudding, energy gels, trail mix, caffeinated chewing gum and electrolyte drinks.
Odom said future exercise participation in Africa will help RDECOM better understand and respond to technology needs. CA 14 was the first exercise in Africa that included a FAST advisor. There are four Accord exercises each year in Africa.
U.S. Army Africa included National Guard and Reserve units from the United States for the exercise, which allowed Odom to interact with a greater mix of Soldiers.
"It offered an excellent opportunity to see issues, big and small, with U.S. equipment. When you go to an exercise with Soldiers, it's easier to get immediate feedback. Soldiers are willing to talk about their gear. They're excited to talk about it," he said.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC delivers it.