Almost 7,000 miles from their home in Fargo, N.D., three members of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade are responsible for managing multinational training during Exercise Central Accord 14.
Central Accord 14 is a U.S. Army Africa-led multinational exercise hosted by Cameroon. The exercise brings together approximately 1,000 troops from eight nations including the United States, Nigeria, Gabon, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and the Netherlands. U.S. participants include contingents from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and the Air and Army National Guards.
The exercise promotes multinational partnerships to build capacity in Central Africa.
For the three members of the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 141st MEB, the job is just another day at the office.
“The 141 MEB has an affiliation with USARAF and United States Africa Command to assist with the conducting of exercises,” said Lt. Col. Debra Lien, the brigade’s deputy commander and the officer-in-charge of the direction cell during the exercise. “This year we’ve been given the duty and responsibility for running training operations and exercise support with more than 100 Soldiers made up of different folks from the Guard, reserve and active duty from all over the world.”
From the minutiae of personnel matters to meeting the logistics need for the training going on, these three people manage it all, said Master Sgt. Larry Jacobson, the team’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
The team also supports those who are here to support the exercise, like the interpreters, combat camera teams and public affairs personnel, he said.
With all the training going on, this year, the team thought it would be advantageous to have some sort of metric to manage the value of the training.
"At previous exercises, there was no real assessment being done and a new concept was developed to have the observer-controllers from [7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command] out here with the instructors assessing our partner nations’ ability to complete the tasks, while meeting the conditions and standards and/or to see how we can interoperate between our nations,” said Lien. “I believe that the assessments are a big part of the exercise; it adds value and will help to build on the knowledge.”
The African servicemembers aren’t the only ones who are benefiting from this shared knowledge.
“When we leave here we will see that we have learned more from our partners here than they could learn from us,” said Lien. American service members are learning how to do more with less, she said noting that “our partners here are just as tactically and technically proficient in the job that they do without all the resources that we have.”
For these citizen-Soldiers, this isn’t their first or last time in Africa – they choose to be here and plan to keep coming back.
“These are good exercises that we should continue to do,” said Jacobson. “If something was to happen on the African continent and we have to work with our partner nations, these mutual experiences will help us to gel our operations together –everyone is on the same page.”
The North Dakota Army National Guard is no stranger to Africa, having a state Partnership for Peace program with Ghana that includes medical, emergency management, information technology, family readiness and military engineering learning exchanges.