Bedevilled by ambush tactics from terrorist groups in UN peacekeeping operations around the world, the US military and South African National Defence Force have launched a joint field training exercise to prepare their forces.
The joint training session, conducted every three years, was arranged to share the experiences learnt by each country from UN operations in countries notorious for conflict such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a joint telephonic briefing from the SANDF Combat Training Centre in Lohatla in the Northern Cape, both US Brigadier-General William Prendergast and SANDF’s Brigadier-General Gustav Lategan lauded the training so far, saying it was being conducted in high spirits.
Lategan, director of joint force preparations and exercises, described the joint exercise as based on SA-US bilateral agreements.
He said the exercise was also meant to strengthen military cooperation between the two countries.
It was also being done under the UN peacekeeping mandate for Africa and entailed joint training techniques and procedures.
Prendergast, who is a national guardsman assigned to US Africa Command and US Army Africa, said the training that the US team had received was of a high standard.
Both countries have taken soldiers from various units across their forces including the navy, health units and infantry battalions.
The exercise focused on firepower and did not involve parachute dropping.
Prendergast said military counter ambush tactics training was very important because most peacekeeping forces often experienced these kinds of attack.
They focused on involving younger soldiers in these exercises to ensure that the most experienced soldiers shared their experiences with those who may not have been deployed or have not witnessed the tragedies of ambush where many soldiers died.
Ambushes can be force multipliers and are capable of overcoming even larger and better-armed units as long as they enjoy the key element of surprise, establish and maintain fire superiority and contain the enemy within the kill zone.
Part of the training included counter-ambush drills, fire exercises, patrols and convoys communications equipment as well as evasive driving techniques.
Lategan said the South Africans learnt a lot from the nearly two decades of its involvement in peacekeeping operations.
It was important to always keep the various units ready for anything, including evacuations and emergency health strategies.
The US military, in partnership with the SANDF, launched the Exercise Shared Accord 2017, which is a command post and company-level field training exercise that started on July 17 and will be concluded next week on August 3.
The Shared Accord 2017 is a US Africa Command directed and US Army Africa led exercise designed to assess the capacity and capability of participating staff and forces in peacekeeping operations.
More than 1000 military personnel from the US and South African forces are participating in the combined joint military exercise.