Thiès, Senegal (July 1, 2014) -- Western Accord 14, a two-week command post and field training exercise, began here, June 16.

The U.S. Africa Command-sponsored and U.S. Army Africa-hosted exercise was attended by Soldiers from Economic Community of West African States, France, Netherlands, U.S. and other partner nations.

The exercise focused on peacekeeping operations and more than five tactical events on cordon and search, protection of civilians, crowd management, internally displaced person protection and entry/traffic control point operations. However, there was an addition to this year's command-post exercise, with instruction provided by a United Nations' representative.

Training officer Lt. Col. Ibrahim Bindul, with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, provided two full days of training on UN doctrine. More than 50 staff members from 16 nations were in attendance. The military staff attendees included personnel from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, France, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and the United States.

The UN doctrine focused on subjects such as human rights/international humanitarian law, protection of civilians, conflict-related sexual violence, and protection of children.

"The subjects were chosen in line with current challenges within peacekeeping missions and the main efforts of the UN regarding the training focus of peacekeepers," said Bindul. "Which at the moment is protection of civilians. For us protection of civilians is one of the key determinants of how successful a UN mission is."

The exercise also enhanced the partnership with the Economic Community of West African States, the U.S. and other partner nations. Bindul said he noticed during the planning phase of the exercise, there was a difference in doctrine and planning from the various participants, but as the exercise progressed he noticed the participants came to a shared understanding.

One of the methods Bindul used to help serve as an icebreaker and as an opportunity for participants to interact with each other was through scenarios, which lead into group discussions. This training technique also allowed those with experience to share what they have learned with those who have not supported a peacekeeping operation.

"The African partners have a lot of experience in the area due to conducting UN missions," said Col. Nelson S. Cardella, a staff planner with G3/5 4th Marine Division in New Orleans, Louisiana. "They bring a lot of lessons learned on how to properly execute a UN task. For me personally it's been enlightening and a great opportunity to learn and look at the UN missions from a different point of view."

Many of the Economic Community of West African States participants have deployed and dealt with UN and peacekeeping issues but were still able to learn from others and the exercise.

Capt. Amadou Diatta, who works in one of the Gendarmerie tactical centers in Senegal, and is responsible for training the Gendarmerie police force before they deploy for UN missions in places such as Darfur, Mali, Haiti and the Congo, said the training gave him a lot of tools.

There was a bit of a challenge for some because of language barriers. Participants in the exercise spoke English, French and various languages from their native countries.

"It is very nice to work with all those different nations and see and know how everyone is dealing with the language problems," said Dutch Capt. André Wisse, deputy commander of the 102nd Engineer Construction Company, from the Netherlands.

Many participants also agreed that one thing that was new with Western Accord 2014, and a challenge in the beginning, was figuring out how to incorporate civilians and police into the exercise. The challenge was overcome almost immediately.

"It gave me a broader understanding of how we treat civilians and working along with other NGO (nongovernmental organization) partners, giving us an asset to help and protect civilians on the battlefield," said Lt. Col. Theophilus Dana, with the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Many agreed they learned something during the exercise that they will teach to those deploying in support of a peacekeeping operation once they return to their country.

"It helps a lot on bringing that multidimensional aspect of peacekeeping, which is not a military operation, but a mission that has different components, military and civilian components," said Bindul.