THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, Botswana -- The Botswana Defense Force, or BDF, held a class on snake awareness Aug. 8, for U.S. military forces participating in Southern Accord 2012 at Thebephatshwa Air Base, Botswana.
Southern Accord 2012 is an annual combined, joint exercise which brings together U.S. Forces with counterparts from the BDF, in order to enhance military capabilities and interoperability. The snake awareness class was given primarily for soldiers going on a three-day field training exercise at Shoshong Range.
The exercise will cover a combination of the training done so far, with soldiers staying in the field for the full three-day, two-night period. Because of this, the BDF wanted U.S. service members to be able to recognize and avoid certain species of snakes they may encounter during the exercise.
"This is the perfect time for this class," said 1st Lt. Richard J. Lee, the executive officer for 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard out of Mt. Holly. "Our soldiers are getting ready to head out to the Shoshong Range and they'll be sleeping outside, so it gave us some good tips to avoid potential accidents."
Staff Sgt. Gosetsepako Lekgowe, from the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks Snake Park, who has 18 years of snake-handling experience with the BDF, was the lead instructor of the class.
"This will help the troops," said Lekgowe. "They now understand a snake's behavior and how to react if they encounter them in the bush."
The class was divided into two sections, a classroom portion followed by a hands-on demonstration. The BDF showcased a number of snakes, including a snouted cobra, a spitting cobra, a boom sling, two puff adders and an African rock python, and handled them in front of soldiers and other BDF members.
"Snakes react to movement," said Lekgowe. "If you don't move you can avoid an attack."
American service members found the class both interesting and practical.
"The classroom [portion] was informative, but it was really great to be able to come out here and see the snakes and how they really act," said Lee.