ACCRA, Ghana -- Participants from 20 countries celebrated the conclusion of United Accord 2017, a combined-joint military exercise at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre, Accra, Ghana, on May 30.

United Accord 2017 included three distinct components designed to train Soldiers from entry-level enlisted to the high-profile senior commanders. From May 19 to 30, service members completed a command post exercise, field training exercise, and jungle warfare school.

UA 2017 also provided an opportunity for regional African partners to develop relationships, enhance interoperability and hone mission command skills that are essential to conducting peacekeeping operations in the region.

The command post exercise at UA 2017 featured service members from 15 African and five Western nations collectively working through a peacekeeping scenario similar to real-world missions from the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, the Honorable Robert P. Jackson, provided remarks at the closing ceremony that expressed appreciation to partnering nations and emphasized the importance of readiness and partnership.

"You are guardians of your homelands and the protectors of our collective security," said Jackson. "It is only through partnership that we can address existing conflicts and prevent future ones."

The African partners involved in the computer-based scenario exercise included representatives from Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S. also participated in the 12-day exercise that Ghana and the United States co-directed.

"One of the most important parts of United Accord 2017 is that it's a professional learning environment where military experiences, lessons learned and best practices are shared amongst U.S. and African partners," said Brig. Gen. Kenneth Moore, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Africa and co-director of UA 2017.

The second component of UA 2017, the bi-lateral field training exercise, took place about two hours outside of Accra at the Ghana Armed Force's Bundase Training Camp.

Ghana Armed Forces 5th Infantry Battalion and the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division trained side-by-side by firing off live rounds and explosives in an awesome display of lethality.

"It's a great experience, especially from a leadership perspective. Picking up, and moving to a different country there is a lot of different considerations that I didn't know would be there," said 1st Lt. Mark Pangilinan, 1-506th Infantry Regiment's fire assistant officer.

At the field exercise, Soldiers conducted on-the-ground, war-fighting tactics from door-blasting demolitions to sniper rifle marksmanship. The combined exercise also included mortar training, attacking a fixed position, improvised explosive device defense and tested battalion mission command systems.

"Being able to execute our job the same way we would back home in a new environment shows us we really can perform our tasks the way we are trained on, no matter what the situations are. It's been a pretty solid exercise," said 1st Lt. David Thame, 1-506th Infantry Regiment fire support officer.

Meanwhile, three hours northwest of Accra, 62 Soldiers from Dealer Company, 1-506th Infantry Regiment, attended the Ghana Armed Forces Jungle Warfare School.

The school marks the first time an African partner nation trained U.S. Army Africa regionally-aligned forces.

"This year is particularly noteworthy, as it marks the first time that African partners taught a U.S. regionally-aligned force," said Jackson at UA17's closing ceremony. "This was an incredible opportunity for our forces to train with, and learn from, our African partners, and gain experience in austere, jungle environments."

The Ghana Armed Forces taught U.S. Soldiers various tactics to help survive and fight in the jungle under harsh conditions. Soldiers experienced improvised river crossing, an obstacle course, day/night jungle land navigation, emergency & medical precautions, survival skills and procuring sustenance by hunting wildlife and identifying edible plants.

Capt. Matthew Cavanaugh, Dealer Company, 1-506th Infantry Regiment company commander, admitted that the school was difficult but rewarding.

"Conducting training in Ghana has allowed these Soldiers within the battalion to see different terrain, different climate than what they are used to back at Fort Campbell," said Cavanaugh.

For Spc. Brian Young, a recent graduate of the Jungle Warfare School, "The craziest thing I've done since I've been here is I ate a snake. Python is extremely spicy," he commented. "I got to watch them [GAF] prepare that and cook it for us and it was pretty cool. I've never eaten snake before."

All 62 Soldiers graduated from this grueling school despite unfamiliar illnesses and injuries they wouldn't normally experience back at their home station, Fort Campbell, Ky.

In addition to the exercise participants, support staff from multiple countries were also on hand to facilitate medical care, communications, transportation and food and water support. Altogether, the exercise included approximately 350 service members, participants, and support staff.

United Accord 2017 is the fifth annual, multinational exercise hosted by U.S. Army Africa in the western region of Africa. Until 2017, the exercise was formerly known as "Western Accord."

Before participants depart, each participant from the command post exercise, field training exercise, and jungle warfare school will conduct an after-action review to discuss positive outcomes and list necessary improvements for future exercises. Participants are encouraged to bring the skills and lessons learned from the exercise back to their home countries.

"Our partners in Africa stand against terror and conflict, and for peace, prosperity, and security. The United States stands with you," declared Jackson. "Through continued partnership we will make Africa, and the world, more peaceful, prosperous, and secure…we look forward to United Accord 2018."