MAUN: The streets of Maun are buzzing with soldiers as ‘Exercise Blue Okavango’ commenced here on Monday.
The exercise runs from July 13- 25. More than 40 military aircrafts and 950 military personnel have descended on Maun as the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) host the SADC Air Forces’ Humanitarian Aid Exercise.
The SADC Regional Air Forces are participating in the exercise, which is run in accordance with an approved SADC doctrine for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Some of the countries participating in the exercise are Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
For two weeks Maun will be transformed into a military town as the military aircraft annex the Maun skies and soldiers clad in their respective army uniforms walk along the streets and the shopping malls.
The BDF top brass said local businesses in the Maun would benefit from the exercise. Environmental Impact Assessment has been conducted to ascertain that the environment will not in anyway be left polluted.
The highlight of the exercise will be the massive airlifting of goods to the communities in the Okavango Sub district.
The event will also conduct out-of-reach activities such as voluntary HIV testing and counselling, voluntary safe male circumcision, dental check-up and other health services in the general areas of Maun, Shakawe, and Gumare.
During the official opening Monday, BDF commander Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe said the exercise brings together regional air forces, air arms and air wings to foster cooperation in human relief operations as well as validate interoperability to better prepare regional forces to respond to catastrophes.
He said in instances of humanitarian and disaster relief operations, national livelihoods and human lives are in jeopardy hence a quick response is critical.
Galebotswe said therefore air forces are the most suitable to employ during disasters due to their speed, flexibility, reach and their mobility.
“The practice of aircraft capability is vital since when required, it will provide the flexibility to get a rapid reaction to the point of a crisis with minimum delay,” he said.
He further expressed hope that the event, which is held biennially exchangeably by SADC member states, will further enhance relations between members through engagements and capacity building within SADC countries to enable members to deal with any humanitarian situation.
“The success of our operations demands that all efforts be directed towards the achievement of tactical, operational, and ultimately strategic aims,” he said.
The military chief added that political and military goals in SADC must be clearly articulated.
Explaining the objectives of the exercise, Colonel Segolame Sebenyane of the BDF said some of the objectives of the exercise include to practice SADC air doctrine, to afford air staff to plan across staff functions and to ensure there is interoperability and compatibility of the SADC air force.