Written by Capt. James Sheehan
U.S. Army Africa
Accra, Ghana – Participants from 20 countries celebrated the conclusion of United Accord 2017, a combined-joint military exercise at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre, Accra, Ghana, May 30th.
United Accord 2017 included three distinct components designed to train Soldiers from entry-level lower enlisted to the high-profile senior commanders. From May 19th to 30th, service members completed a command post exercise, field training exercise, and jungle warfare school.
UA 2017 provides an opportunity for regional African partners to develop relationships, enhance interoperability and hone mission command skills required to conduct peacekeeping operations in the region.
UA 2017’s command post exercise hosted service members from 15 African and five western nations collectively working through a peacekeeping scenario similar to real-world missions from the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, the Honorable Robert P. Jackson, provided remarks at the closing ceremony expressing appreciation to partnering nations and emphasizing the importance of readiness and partnership.
“You are guardians of your homelands and the protectors of our collective security,” said Jackson. “It is only through partnership that we can address existing conflicts and prevent future ones.”
The CPX’s African partners included representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo all took part in the computer-based scenario closely monitored by selected observer controllers.
Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S. also participated in the 12-day exercise co-directed by Ghana and the United States.
About two hours outside of Accra is the Ghana Armed Force’s Bundase Training Camp. There, Soldiers from the GAF and U.S. participated in a bi-lateral field training exercise in heat soaring above 100 degrees.
Ghana Armed Forces 5th Infantry Battalion and U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division trained side-by-side firing off live rounds and explosives in an awesome display of lethality.
“It’s a great experience, especially from a leadership perspective. Picking up, and moving to a different country there is a lot of different considerations that I didn’t know would be there,” said 1st Lt. Mark Pangilinan, 1-506th Inf. Regt.’s fire assistant officer.
At the FTX, Soldiers conducted on-the-ground, war-fighting tactics from door-blasting demolitions to sniper rifle marksmanship. The combined exercise also included mortar training, attacking a fixed position, improvised explosive device defense and tested battalion mission command systems.
“Being able to execute our job the same way we would back home in a new environment shows us we really can perform our tasks the way we are trained on, no matter what the situations are. It’s been a pretty solid exercise,” said 1st Lt. David Thame, 1-506th Inf. Regt.’s fire support officer.
About three hours northwest of Accra by vehicle, 62 Soldiers from Dealer Company, 1-506th Inf. Regt. attended the Ghana Armed Forces Jungle Warfare School.
The school marks the first time an African partner nation trained U.S. Army Africa regionally aligned forces.
“This year is particularly noteworthy, as it marks the first time that African partners taught a U.S. regionally aligned force,” said Jackson at UA17’s closing ceremony. “This was an incredible opportunity for our forces to train with, and learn from, our African partners, and gain experience in austere, jungle environments.”
Dealer Company, 1-506th Inf. Regt.’s company commander, Captain Matthew Cavanaugh, admitted the school was difficult, but rewarding.
“Conducting training in Ghana has allowed these Soldiers within the battalion to see different terrain, different climate than what they are used to back at Fort Campbell,” said Cavanaugh.
“The craziest thing I’ve done since I’ve been here is, I ate a snake. Python is extremely spicy. I got to watch them [GAF] prepare that and cook it for us and it was pretty cool. I’ve never eaten snake before,” said Specialist Bryan Young, a U.S. Army Soldier and recent graduate of the GAF’s Jungle Warfare School.
All 62 Soldiers graduated this grueling school despite unfamiliar illnesses and injuries they don’t normally experience back in their home station, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Support staff from multiple countries facilitated medical care, communications, transportation and food/water support. Altogether, the exercise included approximately 350 service members, participants, and support staff.
United Accord 2017 is the fifth annual, multinational exercise hosted by U.S. Army Africa in the western region of Africa. Until 2017, the exercise was formerly known as “Western Accord.”
Before participants depart, each participant from the CPX, FTX and JWS will conduct an after action review to discuss positive outcomes and list necessary improvements for future exercises. Participants are encouraged to bring the skills and lessons learned from the exercise back to their home countries.
“Our partners in Africa stand against terror and conflict, and for peace, prosperity, and security. The United States stands with you. Through continued partnership we will make Africa, and the world, more peaceful, prosperous, and secure,” said Jackson. “…we look forward to United Accord 2018.”