U.S., Botswana Forces Build Capability, Partnership
THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, Botswana, Aug. 14, 2012 – An exercise under way here between the U.S. military and the Botswana Defense Force is building capability in a growing African partner and helping to set conditions for long-term peace, stability and security on the African continent, the exercise director told American Forces Press Service.
Southern Accord 12 kicked off Aug. 1 and continues through this week, bringing together more than 600 U.S. soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors and more than 700 of their Botswana Defense Force counterparts.
The exercise, led by U.S. Army Africa, includes joint training activities designed to enhance the capabilities of both militaries, Army Brig. Gen. Isaac G. Osborne Jr., the exercise director and assistant adjutant general for the Tennessee National Guard, told American Forces Press Service.
It includes classroom and field exercises focused on a variety of areas, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, anti-poaching, peacekeeping and convoy operations and aeromedical evacuation.
Also during the exercise, the Botswana Defense Force and U.S. troops are conducting outreach programs in several rural areas. These activities include dental and medical examinations, veterinary assistance and support for Botswana’s national safe male circumcision program, part of its effort to fight the spread of HIV.
These efforts, Osborne said, reflect the U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command focus on helping African nations address African problems and challenges. “The concept is to promote security and stability and peace in the continent and be able to train a nation to take care of itself or to conduct peacekeeping operations in other nations,” he said.
The 50,000-member Botswana Defense Force has made great strides since it was stood up in 1977, 11 years after Botswana gained independence. It has served in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, as observers in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mozambique, and in the South African Development Community intervention in Lesotho, as well as in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan. Botswana Defense Force members also serve on an African Union Liaison Mission in Ethiopia/Eritrea, and Botswana has military observers in Darfur.
Osborne said he’s been impressed with the Botswana Defense Force’s capabilities and the interest they have in building on them.
“They have made a lot of progress, and they are open to new ideas and training,” he said. “Their people are very interested in the training that we are giving. They want to learn everything they can about us and the U.S. military.”
But the general emphasized that the learning is taking place on both sides, with the U.S. troops learning as the Botswana Defense Force shares its own tactics, techniques and procedures and insights into its culture.
In the process, Osborne said, his soldiers have gained a new appreciation of their African counterparts.
“We have had a lot of cases where our officers and [noncommissioned officers] have said they would take these [Botswana] soldiers side by side with them any day,” he said.
After almost three years with U.S. Army Africa, Osborne said, he’s optimistic about the growing receptiveness of many African nations to increasing their military-to-military engagements with the United States.
“As they learn more about what we are doing, many are deciding that they want to be involved with U.S. Army Africa’s training,” he said.