P 100606Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7638
INFO SECDEF WASHDC
SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE UNCLAS PRETORIA 000453
E.O. 12958:N/A: N/A
SUBJECT: VISIT TO SANDF 46TH BRIGADE ACOTA TRAINING
1. On February 26, Deputy Political Counselor visited the greater
Johannesburg headquarters of the South Africa National Defense Force
(SANDF) 46th Brigade to witness in progress a two-week
computer-aided command post exercise conducted under the auspices
for State Department's African Contingency Operations Training and
Assitance (ACOTA) program. The visit was coordinated through the
Pretoria Office of Security Cooperation and State Department
contractor Northrop Grumman: Training and Simulation Group.
2. The 46th brigade commander, Brigadier General Mahlobo, welcomed
DepPolCouns with a briefing and led the tour of the brigade HQ. He
expressed gratitude for the high level cooperation between the 46th
Brigade and the ACOTA team. General Mahlobo told us his senior
staff officer, a colonel who had served with the United Nations
Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), had been fully
engaged in custom-designing the command post exercise underway.
Mahlobo said he was very pleased with ACOTA approach to training and
mentoring and would welcome further opportunuties to work with us.
Mahlobo and the Colonel escorted POLOFF through the varous base
locations involved in managing the complex situation underway in the
fictional nation of "Redland."
3. The SANDF Colonel who guided our tour had a major role in
designing the exercise. The atmosphere in the various command
locations was one of real-time crisis management taking place among
the various teams. The simulation units were comprised of about
20-30 South African officers working in several sub-command
locations and a groups of 50-60 in the command operations center.
At each location civilian ACOTA trainers and uniformed U.S. Marines
were advising as the South Africans made decisions. Communication
between the SANDF and the advisors seemed very good. The attention
to detail in making the situation seem real extended to role-playing
exercises involing dealing with NGO's, media, clergy, displaced
people, and UN bureaucracy, while managing a major engagement with
hostile forces. The ACOTA team's effort at projected verisimilitude
extended to the publication of a virtual newspaper. This attention
to detail appeared to help keep attention levels high and engagement
4. The following are a few examples of the situations SANDF
officers were called upon to manage as part of the exercise:
battlefield surveillance, media interviews, a fuel truck accident, a
convoy blocked by civilians, an attack on a convoy, a minefield
discovered, a car bomb, a mass grave reported, several incidents
requiring medevac. The SANDF officers said the command post
exercise was good preparation for their upcoming deployment.
Elements of the 46th Brigade are expected to serve in headquarters
in Burundi and Sudan peace support operations.
5. Meeting with DepPolCouns after the tour, members of the ACOTA
team stressed that the program's strong point was its custom design
to meet the needs of the 46th Brigade. The combination of retired
U.S. military contractors and younger active-duty U.S Marines struck
us a particularly effective approach to mentoring. Poloff learned
that the Marines had volunteered for TDY duty to support the ACOTA
effort and learn about peace support operations in Africa. The
ACOTA team explained that while many SANDF reservists have
experience in peace support, our command post exercise is helping
many officers make the transition from commanding in the field to
serving in a headquarters unit. The team was looking forward to
returning to South Africa to conduct ACOTA training exercises at the
Qreturning to South Africa to conduct ACOTA training exercises at the
SANDF artilleray and infantry schools.
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