On Sunday, August 12th, 2012, a few Peace Corps Volunteers were called and invited to attend an Open House at the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) Military Base just outside Molepolole. It was a nice opportunity for the PCVs selected, as the Air Base is the biggest in the country and one of just a small handful of military bases in Botswana. The event was in celebration of the 640 US military soldiers who had come to Botswana on a training mission and been camped at the BDF base for the past few weeks. They are here for a month or so to help with training the BDF in military responses, particularly Medivac and other medical related initiatives. They are also helping with capacity building in areas such as construction, roads and health services. Both country militaries are working hand in hand to improve each other’s capabilities.
The American Embassy was there along with many high-ranking US military from the 4 branches of the Armed Forces. The Peace Corps Volunteers were invited to share some experiences with the military and to give us a chance to see how our military is also participating in similar activities as we are. This comes as a bit of a surprise, since traditionally, most people have the impressions that the Peace Corps and the US Military should be at odds in their missions. As we were told, in 1961 John F. Kennedy started the Peace Corps along with the US Special Armed Forces (Green Beret’s). The idea was that both components would have the same mission with one using force and focused on immediate short-term solutions and the other being a longer term solution.
We spent the day touring the base and seeing first hand how the US military reacts to emergencies (Focused primarily on medical evacuation and other medical related operations).
They gave us a tour of the US Chinook Helicopters which were way cool. These are the latest and greatest in the US military arsenal, with highly update avionics and the most efficient engines.
(You can see these pictures full size if you go to our website and double-click them).
They also showed us several of the BDF helicopters which are mostly American made civilian Robinson Helicopters with small conversions.
This is the President’s private ride.
We also got to see up close the US C-130 Hercules plane. This plane was given to the BDF in 1993 by the North Carolina National Guard. It is pretty impressive and I was even promised a ride in it somewhere along the way!
A few weeks ago Carol and I were introduced to an American couple who live in Molepolole. He works on the C-130 plane as an avionics mechanic for a US based contracting company and they pay him huge money. He and his wife are quite generous and invite the PCVs in the area over to their very nice home frequently for dinner and to swim in their little swimming pool. The last time we were there they cooked a very delicious meal and stuffed us with appetizers, main entre, deserts and even after dinner Cuban Cigars with 100-year-old Brandy to dip them in. I’m not much of cigar connoisseur, but I sure enjoyed the hospitality for a while!