Story by Army Sgt. Charlie Helmholt
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, Botswana - Eight U.S. Army soldiers with Company B, 405th Brigade Support Battalion, Illinois Army National Guard out of Crestwood, Ill., joined 25 Botswana Defense Force Corps of Mechanical Engineers members to form the Maintenance Support and Recovery group for Southern Accord 2012.

"It has gone very well," said Capt. Pelonmi Gopalang, an officer with the BDFCME. "We have conducted classes and we've exchanged much information and knowledge."

The U.S. and Botswana maintenance coalition was responsible for the upkeep, recovery and repair of all Botswana and U.S. equipment over the course of the exercise. In addition, the two groups of soldiers shared their experience with each other through a series of classes.

"We only brought a few maintenance personnel, and we've been able to cross-train very well," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott R. Johnson, a senior non-commissioned officer with the 405th from Chicago, Ill. "For example, I now have experience welding, which I didn't have before, thanks to the BDF teaching us."

Both groups worked quickly and efficiently together, bringing the skills learned in the classrooms into practical application during the exercise.

"They have their different strengths and weaknesses like we do," said Johnson, "but their professionalism and way of conducting business, and the principles and ideas within a given guideline are pretty close to those in our military. Just to work side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder with the BDF guys has been probably the biggest thing I will take away from this and remember."

Members of the BDF felt the same as their U.S. counterparts.

"I have very much enjoyed the relationships we have made and the exchange of information that has taken place," said Gopalang.