LIBREVILLE, Gabon (March 12, 2012) -- U.S. and Gabonese forces along with regional partners are training together during Medical Accord Central 12, March 5-16.

Hosted by U.S. Army Africa, MEDACCORD 12 provides members of the Mississippi and Utah National Guard, Army Reserve units from Arkansas and Texas, personnel from the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute at Joint Base San Antonio, and regional African partners a unique opportunity to foster security cooperation while conducting an exercise to enhance medical capacity.

Building strong partnerships is one of the key elements of the military-to-military exercise.

Since the initial planning phase one of the main goals has been to partner with the Gabonese military and learn from them about the issues affecting the region, said Mississippi Army National Guard Maj. Anthony W. Smith, MEDACCORD 12's task force executive officer.

The partnership began at the exercise's initial planning conference.

"We worked with the Gabonese planners when they came to Dallas," said Capt. Jamie E. Jackson, task force liaison officer and member of the Mississippi Army National Guard. "We worked together so well at the planning conference that we were able to schedule all the training there and begin preparing for the exercise further."

Interacting with the Gabonese to figure out what kind of training they really need and recommending training that will benefit the U.S. is helping build a strong partnership, Smith said.

The training at MEDACCORD 12 is led by both the U.S. military and Gabon Defence Force nurses, doctors and other medical personnel.

Both militaries sat down as a group, considered the combined experience, put it all together and produced a training schedule to benefit everyone involved, Smith said.

"We are working together," Jackson said. "It's not [just] us teaching them. We are learning from each other, because they are bringing something to the table too."

"We want to share our experiences with other nations," said Lt. Jolin O. Sossa, a Gabon Military Health Services student doctor. "We want to present to America the issues that we deal with."

The first days of the exercise involved presentations from both nations' medical personnel who shared experience and medical knowledge while allowing participants to get to know one another.

"A good relationship is critical," Jackson said. "I believe a good bond enhances training."

Sossa echoed Jackson's sentiment saying Gabonese and Americans can both learn from this training.

"Collaboration is something good for both of us," Sossa said.

The next and last part of the exercise will consist of hands-on training in a field environment, and after learning together for nearly two weeks the exercise will conclude with a closing ceremony and reception.

The closing ceremony may end the exercise but some of the participants plan to stay in contact.

"I have exchanged email with several of the Gabonese soldiers mainly for the camaraderie," Jackson said. "I would like to come back and visit, but for me, I know this is the trip of a lifetime."