TROY, N.Y. — New York Army National Guard Soldiers will spend the next two weeks working on an exercise with their State Partnership Program partners in South Africa. 45 National Guard Soldiers will join their south African National Defense Force, or SANDF, counterparts for exercise Shared Accord.
Shared Accord is a biannual joint training exercise led by U.S. Southern European Task Force, Africa, to strengthen interoperability and partnerships between the United States and African countries. Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserves and the Active-Duty Army will also participate in the exercise with the New York Army National Guard.
This year’s iteration is hosted in South Africa and focuses on medical readiness and field training. Soldiers will provide primary health care, dental and veterinary services in Richards Bay and Empangeni in the uMhlathuze Municipality and in Mtubatuba.
“The New York Army National Guard, the Reserves and the U.S. Army are extremely excited to reinvigorate our partnership now that the COVID pandemic has subsided,“ said New York Army National Guard Col. Christopher Cronin, deputy director of the exercise. “Our Soldiers thoroughly enjoy partnering, learning and training with all our brothers and sisters of the South African National Defense Force.
“Even more rewarding is the special opportunity during this iteration of Shared Accord to partner with the SANDF to provide vital health education and treatment," Cronin said.
The 2022 Shared Accord exercise is the fourth, with previous iterations in 2011, 2013 and 2017. The 2017 exercise was at the South African Army Combat Training Centre in the Northern Cape. The Eastern Cape hosted the first two, with a humanitarian and health care focus on rural, local communities. A planned 2020 Shared Accord was unfortunately cancelled due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
“The aim of the exercise Shared Accord 2022 is to improve bilateral military interoperability, to conduct maritime force protection operations against conventional and asymmetric threats at sea and in harbors, conduct air support operations to peace support operations for landward forces, and to exercise the provision of medical assistance and humanitarian relief to own forces and the local population,” a spokesperson for the SANDF said.
Since their partnership began in 2003, New York Army and Air National Guard members have participated in South African air shows and military competitions and presented at South African military schools and leadership forums. South Africans, in turn, have visited New York Air National Guard bases and New York Army National Guard training events to share their knowledge.
The State Partnership Program evolved from a 1991 U.S. European Command decision to set up the Joint Contact Team Program in the Baltic Region with Reserve component Soldiers and Airmen.
A subsequent National Guard Bureau proposal paired U.S. states with three nations emerging from the former Soviet Bloc and the program was born, becoming a key U.S. security cooperation tool, facilitating cooperation across all aspects of international civil-military affairs and encouraging people-to-people ties at the state level.
Since then, the state partnerships have grown exponentially, with 85 partnerships with 92 nations around the globe.