THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, Botswana (Sept. 6, 2012) -- As training for Southern Accord 2012 commenced, members of the 414th Contracting Support Brigade deployed and provided contracting support and more in support of the U.S. Africa Command joint exercise.

Southern Accord is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, U.S. Army Africa-led combined joint exercise bringing together U.S. military and Republic of Botswana defense forces to conduct humanitarian and peacekeeping exercises to enhance military capabilities and interoperability.

"The 414th has conducted four missions in support of U.S. Army Africa this year," said Col. Paul Pardew, 414th commander, Vicenza, Italy. "This includes Southern Accord 2012. During fiscal year 2013 we have nine planned missions with the potential for involvement in other non-planned events including support to potential non-combatant evacuation or humanitarian relief operations."

The unit currently has two contracting officers deployed to Thebephatshwa Air Base, Botswana, in support of Southern Accord.

"We're at a very remote location in Africa with limited capabilities," explained Maj. Guillermo J. Santiago, 414th CSB contracting officer. "Meetings with the local hardware store manager help in providing information to potential vendors. In this part of the world, personal relationships matter. Visiting a contractor and taking the time to talk with them produces results."

Santiago said one thing he didn't have to worry about was translators since English is the official language in Botswana. However, across Africa there are more than 2,000 languages and dialects.

"Since our arrival most of our challenges have been directly related to a challenging logistics situation on the ground," he said.

According to Pardew, U.S. Africa Command and USARAF rely heavily on National Guard and reserve-component units and Soldiers to conduct exercises and training in Africa. This increases the level of coordination between Army units in Italy, the United States and Africa.

Santiago and Maj. Michael A. Sansone met this challenge by coordinating the contracting support and requirements as well as the training of contracting officer representatives and field ordering officers.

Contract support planning and customer education remain a focal point across the 414th CSB as the brigade reaches its initial operational capability in October. Pardew said Santiago and Sansone exemplify how the 414th has brought operational contracting support planning and execution to the forefront of USARF's considerations as it conducts Southern Accord 12 and prepares for fiscal year 2013 exercises and missions.