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SETAF Mechanics Train Botswanan Soldiers

A three-man joint contact team from the Southern European Task Force (SETAF) Maintenance Division in Vicenza, Italy, went to Gaborone, Botswana, last winter to instruct members of the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) on the roles and responsibilities of a maintenance soldier. This training mission was part of the U.S. European Command’s Theater Security Cooperation Plan. The team provided training in maintenance and maintenance management.

This was the first maintenance training for many of the Botswanan soldiers, so the skills that the U.S. Soldiers presented were very basic. However, the SETAF team saw potential for more in-depth, hands-on, and face-to-face training. The team found it interesting to compare the way a foreign military handles its logistics to the way U.S. units handle theirs and discovered that it could learn from the students as well as teach them.

Unsure about what to expect when they arrived in Botswana, the team was surprised by the wide mixture of equipment the Botswanan mechanics had to work on. They found the Botswanan soldiers, whose ranks included warrant officers (who are the equivalent of U.S. sergeants major), majors, captains, lieutenants, and staff sergeants, to be receptive to instructions and on their way to a more streamlined organization of their vehicle equipment.

Although it only had about a week to conduct the training, the team managed to cover a wide range of maintenance basics, including—

  • Levels of maintenance.
  • Daily operations of a brigade or battalion maintenance officer or technician and maintenance noncommissioned officer.
  • Proper safety standards as prescribed by Army regulations.
  • Hazardous waste disposal procedures.
  • Proper fleet configurations to best meet mission requirements.
  • Unique considerations for tracked versus wheeled vehicle maintenance.
  • Parts procurement.
  • Minimum essential repairs.
  • Budget and finance.
  • Management of salvaged vehicles.
  • Sources of spare parts.

The team found that the BDF officers were also interested in the purpose, function, and operation of the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office and the equipment lifecycle management concept. When BDF soldiers expressed an interest in vehicle recovery, the SETAF team conducted an impromptu, hands-on exercise in recovery operations.

The BDF soldiers were also interested in the U.S. Army in general and in the rank progression of its Soldiers. The team met one corporal who had been in the BDF for 30 years and several captains who had been in for over 20 years. These BDF soldiers were very interested in the U.S. Army’s promotion process.

SETAF mechanics do not normally conduct this type of training mission, but the team lead, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Pitts, believes that this could be a building stone for future training opportunities. “We definitely have the skill sets to do this again, and I would in a heartbeat,” said Pitts. “It was a great exchange of ideas between soldiers and served as a great opportunity to train some of Botswana’s professional, motivated soldiers.”
ALOG

Army Logistician thanks Sergeant Justin P. Nieto, formerly with the SETAF Public Affairs Office, for providing the story and photos for this feature.