DOUALA, Cameroon (Feb. 24, 2013) -- Hundreds of Cameroon military personnel, alongside U.S. and other Central Africa service members, lined the 102 Air Force Base airfield in Douala, Cameroon, Feb. 20, as part of an opening ceremony for Central Accord 13.
Continuing through March 1, the exercise enhances readiness of participating countries' logistical and resupply capabilities as well as their ability to conduct aeromedical evacuations. Fritz Ntonѐ Ntonѐ, Ph.D., the government delegate to the Douala City Council, addressed the audience and welcomed the visitors.
He expressed the "gratitude of the people of Douala," which he said is striving to be the biggest city in the central region of Africa, successfully overcoming any challenges the region may face.
"So, you can understand in particular why we are so interested in this exercise, where the heart of the job is developing medical and logistical support for the sub-region," he said.
The exercise began in force Feb. 20, with military academics, and it will evolve into a three-day field training exercise to test training in a real-world-style situation to ensure future self-sufficiency.
"The United States' commitment to the central Africa region and to Africa is long term," said Brig. Gen. Peter Corey, deputy commander of U.S. Army Africa, who spoke during the event. "As part of that commitment, the U.S. Army works to strengthen relationships with our African partners who are cooperating on a regional basis to ensure a more secure and stable Africa."
Central Accord 13 benefits all participants, he said, and is a "key element in a broader series of military-to-military activities designed to demonstrate the strong partnership" between the U.S. and participating African countries, such as Cameroon.
About 750 service personnel are involved in Central Accord 13, the bulk serving in the Cameroon military. More than 150 military members from the U.S. Army, Air Force, National Guard and Reserve are also participating in Central Accord 13, along with 19 observers from five neighboring African countries and the Economic Community of Central African States. Nearby observers hail from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Sao Tome e Principe and Gabonese Republic.
Joseph Beti Assomo, governor of the Littoral Region, turned to face the contingent of military personnel spread across the airfield during the ceremony and assured them that he was sensitive to their needs while in Douala. He expressed confidence that the months of planning and meetings were coming to fruition as the ceremony formally opened the exercise.
"Following all of the pre-engagements, from Angola to Vicenza (Italy), we are now here in the economic capitol of our country to put in play the scenarios that were planned during the planning process," he said. "It's a great honor for our country to host the final part of the planning conferences but also the actual exercise for Central Accord 13. This choice echoes the willingness of the Cameroon Chief of State, the Chief of the Army, and his excellence Paul Biya [president of Cameroon] to work toward peace on our continent and our region."
U.S. Army Africa hosts Central Accord annually to enhance military interoperability, providing an opportunity for African militaries to achieve new goals while giving U.S. forces the chance to improve their abilities in training and partner cooperation.
Formerly named Atlas Accord, Central Accord was initiated in 1996 as part of the long-term commitment the U.S. has to Africa and the trans-Saharan region. U.S. Army Africa, as the Army Service Component Command for U.S. Africa Command, enables full spectrum operations while conducting sustained security engagement with African land forces to promote security, stability and peace.