OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso -- The Burkina Faso Prime Minister, U.S. Ambassador for Burkina Faso and Deputy Commanding General for U.S. Army Africa attended a Closing Ceremony for Western Accord 2016, May 13, at Camp Zagre.
The two-week command post exercise, which began, May 2, brought together 15 West African Nations, seven NATO European countries and the U.S. to work as a multinational headquarters to build interoperability and shared understanding.
"Let me start by saying thank you to Burkina Faso for hosting Western Accord 2016," said Tulinabo Mushingi, U.S. Ambassador for Burkina Faso. "We, in the United States are very proud that this year's event has been successful and has been an excellent training opportunity for everyone represented here today."
Participants had to plan and notionally execute an African Union and United Nations peacekeeping operation in a joint, combined environment. Each military representative came with a different operational process, but everyone aligned efforts to complete their mission.
"There is no standard for success, that we all have different backgrounds and different experiences that we can capitalize from," said Capt. Scott Saunders, U.S. Army Africa scenario manager for the accord. "We're dealing with language barriers, many different backgrounds and not one person was going to solve it all. So, we had to get out of our comfort zones and contribute in any way we could. It took a little bit more time, but in the end I feel the consensus is what gave us strength."
Western Accord 2016 has allowed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to train for regionally significant real-world scenarios that currently, not only West Africa, but all its partner nations.
"This act is a testimony of your support and involvement in encouraging the armed forces of the countries involved in order to prevent conflict, preserve and maintain peace and stability in the ECOWAS area and all over the world," said General Pingrenoma Zagre, Chief of Defense Staff for Burkina Faso Armed Forces.
While the exercise was directed at enhancing interoperability across the region, it was also beneficial for U.S. participants, as most have less experience outside a combat operational environment.
"While the U.S. does a lot of training, the Burkinabe participate in a lot more peacekeeping operations than we do," Saunders said. "I feel I learned a lot about U.N. operations and the U.N. planning process."
This is the first of four annual U.S. Army Africa accord series exercises scheduled this year. Next year, Saunders hopes to capitalize off what they gained during this year's command post exercise.