ACCRA, Ghana - MEDFLAG 11, a joint humanitarian assistance exercise between U.S. and Ghana Armed Forces, kicked off July 11 with an opening ceremony at the nearby Ghanaian army base, Burma Camp.

Sponsored by U.S. Army Africa, the bilateral MEDFLAG 11 exercise will strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Ghana through 10 days of collaborative training and sharing of medical expertise, as well as joint humanitarian civilian assistance in local communities.

The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) chief of defense staff, Lt. Gen. Peter Augustine Blay, welcomed guests to the opening ceremony and noted, “…the Ghana Armed Forces and the United States Army have a long-cherished relationship that will continue to grow from strength to strength.”

About 200 troops will participate in the exercise, including U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers and servicemembers from the GAF’s 37th Military Hospital in Accra. Civilian personnel from Ghana’s National Disaster Management Organization, similar to FEMA in the U.S., are also lending their expertise.

“Together, we will learn from each other, said Lt. Col. Rodney Boyd, officer-in-charge of the U.S. MEDFLAG forces and the commander of the 405th Brigade Support Battalion, a National Guard unit from Chicago, Ill. “Once we leave here, both armies will be smarter and stronger.”

During his address, Blay also encouraged MEDFLAG 11 participants from both countries to put all their time and energy into the exercise, ensuring not just a growth of medical knowledge but also the provision of medical care to the public.

“We hope that at the end of [the exercise], our capacities will be enhanced,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Gordon Appiah, a neurosurgeon at the 37th Military Hospital. “Truthfully, that’s what we are looking for.”

After several days of hands-on classroom instruction by both U.S. and Ghanaian personnel, the MEDFLAG staff will visit several municipalities to use their increased capabilities by offering basic medical, dental and veterinary services to the populace.

“I’m looking forward to a successful mission,” said Boyd. “It’s a partnership to provide a service to the Ghanaian people, and the telltale sign of how we do is how the Ghanaian people feel at the end.”

Initiated in 1987, MEDFLAG has been held more than 20 times, spanning across approximately 16 countries, including Gabon (1988 and 2007), Zambia (1992), Uganda (2002), Morocco (2003) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2010).

MEDFLAG, a key program in the United States’ efforts to partner with the Government of Ghana, is the latest in a series of exercises involving U.S. military forces and African partner militaries with the aim of establishing and developing military interoperability, regional relationships, synchronization of effort and capacity-building.