SecArmy McHugh visits Botswana
By Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, Secretary of the Army Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (June 25, 2012) -- With more than 187,000 Soldiers based in nearly 160 countries, the U.S. Army presence around the globe points to its commitment to strengthening relationships and assisting with building military capacity in partner nations. One such partner is Botswana in sub-Saharan Africa.
For three weeks in June, approximately 100 troops from the U.S Army Special Forces and the Botswana Defence Force, or BDF, participated in exercise Eastern Piper 2012, part of an annual exercise program U.S. Africa Command, or USAFRICOM, conducts with partner nations throughout Africa.
USAFRICOM is a relatively new combatant command, but U.S. engagement in Africa is nothing new. For decades, American Special Operations Forces have had a presence there helping to build military capacity.
Supporting USAFRICOM's theater engagement plan, Special Operations Command Africa participated in the bilateral military training exercise to further proficiencies, foster collaboration and improve coordination skills. Long after the exercise is over, the relationships forged will further advance through continued communications and partnerships.
During the final week of the exercise, U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh and U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, Michelle D. Gavin, visited U.S. and BDF Special Forces personnel participating in the exercise and observed capability demonstrations executed by the BDF.
"They have a reputation, obviously deservedly so, of being a highly capable professional force, and they sure showed that here today," said McHugh. "The hostage initiatives they exercised are very, very difficult to do, and to do them with such skill and precision, it was very, very impressive."
Gavin, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in June 2011, was grateful for the opportunity to observe a joint military training event and was pleased to witness the seamless collaboration between U.S. and BDF forces.
"Seeing the kind of extremely complex operations being carried out in such a compressed time frame for a civilian like me is very, very impressive," said Gavin. "To watch the decision making that has to go on in the thick of things and see this carried out so skillfully and capably was very, very impressive. Those lasting partnerships are very, very important and we're eager to see it build out from military-to-military relations to involving civilian leadership as well."
During EP12, American Special Forces Soldiers provided the BDF with training on various tactics, techniques and procedures. But the U.S. Soldiers also benefited from training provided by the BDF, including a class on tracking, a skill set Soldiers are not normally exposed to in U.S. military schools.
"That's what being partners and friends is all about; going to school together, learning together," said McHugh. "But it also, I think, brings our two nations more closely together. The last 10 years have kind of taught us that the threats of terrorism, piracy and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction really don't respect borders. No one country can face those challenges alone, and the United States really values partnerships like we have here in Botswana, with the BDF in particular."