EZIDONINI, South Africa – New York Army National Guard Soldiers, U.S. Army Reserves, U.S. Army Africa Command Soldiers and service members from the South Africa National Defense Force honored Nelson Mandela International Day 2022 by partnering with a South Africa school July 18.
“This is just the beginning of a long-term relationship. We are honored to have you all here today and to support our students,” said T.T. Magwaza, principal of Khanyiselisizwe High School, where the event was held.
The U.S. Soldiers are in South Africa for Shared Accord, a biannual training event to enhance operational skills and the partnership between the United States and South Africa. The New York National Guard and South Africa have been partners since 2003 under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.
“Stay in school, study hard,” said New York Army National Guard Col. Christopher Cronin, deputy director of Exercise Shared Accord 2022. “We are honored to have a state partnership with you. We are especially fortunate to be here today with you for Nelson Mandela Day.”
Cronin quoted Mandela, who famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Service members from both countries smiled as they worked with the students and cleaned the school grounds.
“We can be one of the world’s most prosperous countries, and the working youth is critical to our future,” said South Africa National Defense Force Brig. Gen. P.F. Dlamini, the director of Shared Accord 2022. “In our military, we have chaplains, doctors, and educators, and we want you to continue learning and improving your life skills.”
Mandela Day is observed each year on July 18, his birthday, and it calls on all citizens to volunteer for 67 minutes in celebration of Mandela’s 67 years of service and promotion of social justice.
Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, international peacemaker and the first president of South Africa. He died in 2013.
This year’s Shared Accord exercise includes field training and medical readiness exercises. Participants will be stationed at dental, health care and veterinary clinics with Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard, working with senior officers from the South Africa National Defense Force.
Since their partnership began, New York Army and Air National Guard members have participated in South Africa air shows and military competitions and presented at South African military schools and leadership forums. South Africans, in turn, have visited New York Air National Guard bases and New York Army National Guard training events to share their knowledge.