Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, spent a week in June training and working with Economic of West African States militaries during Exercise Western Accord 14 .
Held in Senegal this year, Western Accord 14 is a U.S. Africa Command sponsored and U.S. Army Africa hosted joint training exercise between the United States, the Economic Community of West African States and partner nations. The exercise is designed to increase interoperability between military forces and ensure the common ability to conduct peacekeeping operations throughout western Africa.
The Marine infantry company worked with armies from Ghana, Senegal and Burkina Faso training in operations for Improvised Explosive Device detection, internally displaced personnel and rifle qualification.
"It's a very good experience to see the other armies and the occasion to be here allows us to share different positions and techniques," said Burkina Faso Paratrooper Regiment Commander Lieutenant Rodrique Compaore. "Personally, I know I've learned a lot and so have my Soldiers."
According to Missouri native Staff Sgt. Daniel Estes, the rifle range noncommissioned officer in charge, 3rd Bn., 23rd Marine Regiment, his Marines also appreciate this rare and unique training experience.
"Our Marines are reservist Marines so they don't get to go out of country often," said the 11-year veteran. "Most of these guys have never really even flown before except to go to boot camp so for them it's a huge eye-opener to go out of country."
Compaore, a nine-year veteran said he'd really like to do this type of training again. He said he had high standards for the training and it was exactly as good as he expected it to be.
"It's good training back and forth between us and the other countries," said 1st Lt. John Kelleher, platoon commander with India Company, 3rd Bn., 23rd Marine Regiment. "We've learned a lot from the other nations out here as well as confirming our own skills as Marines."
Despite speaking different languages, Kelleher and Compaore both said it was a challenge they easily overcame using a translator.
"We expected to have a lot more challenges but they've been few and far between," added Kelleher, a Boston native. "We've been able to overcome the language barrier and the other countries have exceeded our expectations so we haven't had that many problems."
Estes, Kelleher and Compaore agreed the exercise has been an overall success and greatly benefitted their troops.
"I think for the Marines, especially those who haven't deployed before, this training shows them these other countries have strong capabilities and by partnering with us, they see ultimately we all have shared goals," said Kelleher. "I think they're also learning some things tactically from these other Soldiers because they have a lot of experience as well."
"I think this helped my Marines to see there is a bigger picture in the world than just what we're doing in the United States," said Estes. "Their militaries train for a purpose just like our militaries train for a purpose."
Compaore said he hopes there will be another exercise similar to Western Accord.
"I just want to thank all of the leadership for this training," he added. "It's a great opportunity for us and a real pleasure for me to be here."