THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, The Republic of Botswana -- Soldiers of Hawaii National Guard's Company B, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment based at Wheeler Army Airfield in Wahiawa, Hawaii, recently deployed to The Republic of Botswana in Southern Africa, to participate in joint exercise Southern Accord12.
SA12 is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, U.S. Army Africa-led combined, joint exercise that brings together U.S. Army personnel with counterparts from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF)to conduct Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations, Peace Keeping Operations (PKO), Aeromedical Evacuation, and enhance military capabilities and interoperability.
The two-week runs Aug. 1 - 17.
Company B transported four Chinook-47F series helicopters halfway around the world to support the mission, which will enhance the readiness capabilities of U.S. and BDF Soldiers. The aircraft will be used to provide aerial support, as well as transport personnel and equipment from the air base to various ranges and training sites.
The new series Chinook is broken down into three major components, loaded onto a transport plane and reassembled at its final destination, said Staff Sgt. Joaquin Favela of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, maintenance sergeant for B Co.
"It takes about two days to do a build up, run up and maintenance test flight," said Favela. "After that the aircraft is fully mission capable."
A major focus of the Southern Accord mission is working closely with the BDF, in order for both forces to better understand each other.
"Working with the BDF has been a great experience," said Spc. Nicole Rezentes, a Chinook mechanic with B Co. "They are really nice, but the biggest adjustment has been the weather. It is really cold at night and really hot during the day."
Other Soldiers echoed this sentiment.
"The Botswana Defense Forces are extremely helpful," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darren Byler of Waiehu, Hawaii, with B. Co. "Everything that we have done in conjunction with them thus far has been absolutely amazing. Their officers are extremely professional and their enlisted are very motivated and helpful."
The Hawaii-based unit will provide support throughout the exercise. Upon completion of their mission, they will break down the Chinooks and return to their homes over 12,000 miles away.
Byler said, "It's really a remarkable aircraft and a cool team to be a part of."