By Spc. Jess Raasch, 116th Public Affairs DetachmentJuly 21, 2011
ACCRA, Ghana - About 100 U.S. Soldiers experienced firsthand the vibrant history and culture of the Greater Accra Region of Ghana July 17 while participating in MEDFLAG 11.
The Ghana Army-sponsored cultural day was one of the many examples of kindness the Ghana Armed Forces has shown to U.S. servicemembers, who traveled here to work side-by-side with their GAF counterparts in the joint humanitarian assistance exercise.
The chief of the Shai people, Nene Teye Kwesi Agyeman, along with tribal elders and traditional healers, greeted the U.S. Soldiers at historic Dodowa Forest, the site of the famous 1826 Battle of Kantamanto. Besides the official welcome, history lesson and ceremonial blessing of the site, traditional Shai dancers and musicians performed for the crowd.
“I enjoyed it,” said Sgt. Jacob Stoelting, a combat medic for the 814th Medical Detachment and a native of Bismark, N.D. “I liked that their ruler came out and talked to us at each location. I felt really welcomed.”
At the next stop, Shai Hills Resource Reserve, the Soldiers and their escorts got up close and personal with a troop of olive baboons congregating near the visitor’s center.
After being welcomed and educated by the reserve park rangers and the village chief, the participants moved on to the Shai people’s ancestral cave, now called the Sagu Bat Cave after its current residents. Occupied by the Shai king until the end of the 19th century, the cave was defendable in times of war due to the abundance of great stone rocks, a tunnel-like openings, and overhangs.
“It was interesting hearing about the history and struggles of the people, and how they became what they are now,” said Stoelting,
Following the trip back to Accra, the day wound down with a visit to a local market.
“Everything was one-of-a-kind,” said Spc. Amanda Schumacher, a combat medic for the 814th Med Det. and a native of Hope, N.D.
Although many shops may carry the same item, like a carved wood tribal mask, since each item is individually crafted and painted, it is truly unique.
“It was a great opportunity to learn about the history of Ghana and see some of the interesting places Ghana has to offer,” said Capt. Bernadette Bland, the operations officer for the 405th Brigade Support Battalion and a native of Belvidere, Ill.
A key program in the United States’ efforts to partner with the government of Ghana, MEDFLAG 11 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.