The US Marines have landed on South African soil for the largest joint US-South African exercise yet, but they did not “hit the beaches”; they arrived by plane for the month-long series of exercises with their South Africa counterparts.
South Africa’s oldest extant newspaper, Grocott’s Mail, from Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province reports more than 400 members of the US Marines Fourth Light Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion have arrived in the town.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is participating in the joint peace-keeping and humanitarian exercise with elements of the Navy, Air Force, Medical Health Service and the Army, with most of the South Africans coming from the SA Army’s 6 South African Infantry Battalion (6 SAI) based in Grahamstown. (Cardinal numbers are not used in the SANDF. “6 SAI” is simply called “Six Sigh”.)
A US Marines Reserve report says eventually the number of US Marines in the exercise, an ongoing one dubbed “Shared Accord”, will reach 700 while 1,400 SANDF members will participate. An SANDF media release said
“The aim of Ex Shared Accord 11 is to provide collective training for the SANDF and US Armed Forces, building interoperability and mutual understanding between the two forces. All services of SANDF are involved in Ex Shared Accord 11.”
One unit eager for the exercise is the SA Navy’s Maritime Reaction Squadron, whose role is very similar to that of the US Marines.
The media release added that a local community at Kleinskool would receive medical assistance, including basic dental and hygiene services as well as providing glasses to needy members of the community.
The release added:
“Members from the SA Engineer Corps and US Marine Engineer Platoon will erect a structure at the SPCA in Uitenhage and ensure drainage around the local community pound.”
Livestock will also be attended to by veterinarians.
Rear Admiral Hanno Teuteberg of the SA Navy, commander of the exercise, said at the opening ceremony:
“We’re making a bit of history here, we can show that we don’t just do combat, we also look after our people."
US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Sam Strotman said:
“I look forward to sharing and learning from each other.”
As both nations:
“value individual freedom and equality.”
Shared Accord is an annual exercise between US and African armed forces. Last year it was held in Mozambique. It has also been held in Benin, Ghana, Senegal have also hosted the exercise.
US forces have exercised with South Africans before, including a joint training exercise involving airborne forces and various port calls by US Navy ships, such as the USS Arleigh Burke in July, 2009.