Story by Army Sgt. Adam Fischman
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, Botswana - Joint U.S. military forces, as well as members of the Botswana Defense Force gathered for a cultural day at Thebephatshwa Air Base, the Republic of Botswana, Aug. 5, during Southern Accord 2012.

SA12 is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, U.S. Army Africa-led combined, joint exercise designed to enhance military capabilities and interoperability between U.S. military forces and the BDF. It has played a key role in military-to-military activities to demonstrate the strong partnership between host country militaries.

Cultural day presented an opportunity for members of the U.S. military to experience cultural events such as a dance performance from local BDF soldiers in ethnic attire, as well as local music and food provided by BDF personnel and local caterers.

Vendors from various parts of Africa also set up roughly 35 booths, selling local collectables, souvenirs and clothing for soldiers to take home to their friends and loved ones. The day also gave members from the various forces a chance to socialize and network with each another.

"It's a great thing for these guys that have never been outside of the country at all before, said Anchorage, Alaska, native Staff Sgt. Rafael Yumo, with Company D, Antiterrorism Battalion, 4th Marine Division. "Being from Alaska and flying halfway around the world to see so many different things is a once in a lifetime experience for some of these Marines. The merging of different cultures and different military forces is a very unique and beneficial opportunity for all of us."

Island Lake, Ill., native Sgt. Whitney Clever with the 405th Brigade Support Battalion from North Riverside, Ill., said she loved cultural day for the interaction with the BDF and local civilians. You learn a lot about their culture through the items you see on the tables, she said.

"During an exercise like this, it's amazing to see so many different counterparts come together," said Clever. "Not only by country, but also Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy all coming together with the BDF and their local community for a shared experience. Its really a great exercise."

Having an opportunity to interact with people not from Africa was Charlene Mubita's favorite part of the day. Mubita is a local vendor who came to cultural day to provide clothing and self-designed home goods, as well as a booth dedicated to local foods. It was a great opportunity to meet so many different people from various places, all of whom were friendly, said Mubita. She added her goal is to eventually travel to the U.S.

This is a sharing of culture in Botswana, said Brig. Gen. Isaac Osborne, deputy commander for U.S. Army Africa. It gives our service members a chance to participate in events which are seldom seen anywhere else in the world. It gives them the opportunity to interact and engage in a positive atmosphere, he said.