THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, The Republic of Botswana (Aug. 31, 2012) -- Air and Army National Guard Soldiers, Marine Reservists, and soldiers from the Botswana Defence Force trained together to save lives, Aug. 14, during a mass casualty evacuation exercise at Southern Accord 2012.

Southern Accord 2012, or SA12, is a combined, joint exercise which brings together the Botswana Defense Force, or BDF, with U.S. Forces to strengthen their partnership through humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping operations and aeromedical evacuation.

"It's organized chaos, but it works," said Staff Sgt. Loretta Myers, the chief ward master of the 396th Army Reserve Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, from Washington state. "Things will get stressful and chaotic but this is the best training style to prepare for real-life events."

The casualty evacuation consisted of a group of elements, Myers said. Service members from all participating military forces acted as casualties from simulated war events. From the field, they were transported to the CSH for treatment, provided by the 396th CSH and the Army Reserve 909th Forward Surgical Team out of Fort Sheridan, Ill.

As the casualties received treatment, flight surgeons and military physicians evaluated and critiqued the nurses and medics on site. The patients were then transported to a mobile air-staging facility, where BDF personnel evacuated the casualties during a simulated scenario onboard a C-130 aircraft.

At the staging facility, BDF worked with members of the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Medical Group, as well as the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, or AES. from Charlotte, N.C.

"These guys have been awesome," said Lt. Col. Deb Wilfong, officer in charge of the 156th AES, referring to the BDF Soldiers they worked side-by-side with. "They pick everything up very quickly, they're eager to learn and we've had a really wonderful time with them."

BDF service members said they enjoyed the training and found it educational.

"Sometimes in Botswana we lose life because people don't know how to provide first aid," said BDF Paramedic Lance Cpl. Oarabile Lesetedi, who operated as the medical chief director during the simulated aeromedical evacuation operation. "Our government has started this program because it is the best way to reduce the number of fatalities."

Lesetedi trained over the two-week exercise to be an MCD. Additional classroom-training sessions took place to train the BDF on various elements of air evacuation, aircraft familiarization and procedures.

"This has been a good initiative and a unique learning experience, where the United States Military Forces have taught us a lot," Lesetedi said. "We never knew such a large aircraft as the C-130 could be an ambulance. There was so much we have learned, which has made it such a pleasure to have the U.S. come here to help us."

"After the lectures we shared together, we became a family," Lesetedi said. "Although it's only been two weeks, we have become so close to one another; they have been so friendly."