The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has rolled out training activities in preparedness to defend the territorial integrity of the country as part of the 2017 edition of its annual conventional warfare exercise codenamed ‘Exercise Starlight Stretch’ in the Ningo-Prampram District in the Greater Accra Region.
The training exercise, which is not mission specific, is aimed at harnessing every resource available to the institution in cohesion, to practice all conventional tactics against an aggressor, which have been left dormant for a long time now.
Ghana is fortunate to have had its conventional weapons and tactics redundant since independence; however, current circumstances the world over and happenings in the West Africa sub-region in particular, have reawakened once again, the need for GAF to resuscitate all means possible to help keep the nation in one piece.
Exercise Starlight Stretch, in times past, has been held only at the brigade level, but this year round, each battalion under the Southern Command (which has oversight on the Volta, Greater Accra, Eastern, Central and Western Regions of the country, defensively) of GAF is being exercised separately for improved results.
In the near future, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Southern Command, under the auspices of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), intends to have separate exercises at the platoon, company, battalion and then to the brigade levels, for the Army to remain responsive to the ever increasing demands of security in a modern and developing world.
In this year’s exercise, all the 3 battalions under the brigade (First Battalion of Infantry – 1BN, Tema, Second Battalion of Infantry – 2BN, Takoradi and Fifth Battalion of Infantry – 5BN, Burma Camp), each supported by the joint efforts of 4 regiments of the Army – 48 Engineers, 66 Artillery, Armoured Reconnaissance (Recce) and 64 Infantry, will be exercised and competitively assessed separately on different dates, to bring out their best capabilities.
Each battalion will take their turn of two weeks to train and use the third week for a final training exercise (ftx) codenamed ‘Operation Cat-Chase,’ which will be a training practice in the field at the Ningo-Prampram District.
The exercise will involve the use of coaxial weapons with the following objectives: refreshing the skills of the brigade Command to be ready to deal with perceived and potential threats to peace and security, assess the physical fitness of troops, planning and practice preparations, battle procedure, conduct and execution of deliberate defence, advance to contact, hasty defence, patrols, ambush and mobile operations.
It is also to help assess commanders at various command levels in practical leadership in command and control of troops in the field, to ensure familiarity of troops with tactics and drills of conventional warfare and to facilitate bonding among troops.
The exercises, which started in early August, will end at the end of September. 2017.
Aggressor is a neighbour of Ghana and the two have coexisted peacefully until recent times. The oil find in Ghana however has propelled her economy from a low-income to lower middle-income economy and, coupled with good governance and peace, Ghana has become a destination for foreign investments.
Recent strides by Ghana in the new Keta Oil Basin in the Volta Region have not gone down well with the leadership of Aggressor, as even her own prosperous citizens are relocating to Ghana and students and labour unions agitations against Aggressor government is on the rise.
Aggressor has made several exploits to destabilise Ghana and has even initiated a movement called ‘Volta Independence State,’ calling for the secession of the Volta Region and later made claims with violence, to the Keta Oil Basin.
Ghana has reported to the ECOWAS, AU and UN who have all asked Aggressor to wait for adjudication, but over the past six months, it has become apparent that funding from donor partners of Aggressor have gone into arms and ammunition stockpile in preparation to commence a forceful takeover of the oil basin.
It is the strategic view of Ghana that likely objectives of Aggressor would be an all-out offensive towards Accra with the aim to seize the harbour in Tema.
It is assessed that Aggressor armed forces currently have 1 Infantry Division and 1 Mechanized Brigade capable of operational deployment at this stage but financial lack has influenced their tactics to ambush and raids, among other offensive shaping operations.
In July 2017, the advance elements of Aggressor Special Forces, composed of a combat team, conducted offensive operation at the border and killed a Customs officer and injured an Immigration officer.
Again in August, they occupied the Aflao-Keta general area with the tactical intention of conducting shaping operations whilst the main force prepares to advance towards Tema via the route Ho-Atimpoku-Afienya-Accra and secondary route via Ada-Dawhenya-Tema to capture the Tema port.
Additionally, Aggressor Special Forces was sighted in the general area of Sogakope, believed to be advance elements of 113 Brigade.
These acts have caused the President of Ghana to direct the CDS to halt the advances of Aggressor and take measures to restore the territorial integrity of Ghana. The CDS therefore tasked COAS to conduct operations to halt the advances with the support of the Ghana Navy and Air Force. COAS has therefore tasked Central and Southern Commands to defend both routes respectively.
Central Command is deployed in the Kyekyerete general area to contain the advancement of Aggressor 112 Brigade on road Ho-Atimpoku-Accra, while Southern Command is to destroy the Special Force on the Ada-Dawhenya-Tema.
Day 1 – Operation Move To Operation Area
After being issued with their orders from the model at their concentration point, the troops of 1BN were being deployed in a convoy to the operational area when they were ambushed by the enemy who, in anticipation of a response from the GAF, had sent a team to spy on their training preparations in response to the invasion.
The war commander at the battalion level, Lt Col Albert Sison Ogaja, commanded his men to tactically retreat to the concentration area, after realising that some of his men had underestimated the seriousness of the task ahead and this could bring about unwarranted casualties.
Lt Col Ogaja, after his instructions to the troops, shouted “Kuluum Shirii” to which all responded in a chant “Ever Ready”, then they organized a quick counter ambush attack which cleared the way successfully after which intelligence revealed that the ambush had been by a section of Aggressor forces and that they had radioed their superiors who were advancing rapidly towards their objective.
For this reason, 1BN tactically deployed ‘Hasty Defence’ technique to stop the advancing enemy before strategising for the next move, they were able to move to their operation area.
Day 2 – Operations Hasty Defence & Advance To Destroy
After excellently repelling the advancement of the enemy attack temporarily, they identified the forward edge of the battle area and quickly aligned their trenches (I, L and W trenches) after which they initiated an onslaught on the enemy who had now retreated to the Miotso plains.
The Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicles (ARVs), which acted as screens or sentries, with the help of binoculars and other equipment, were able to determine the location of the Aggressor, thus the battle was joined, where all weapons were brought to bear on the enemy at “Okponglo.”
The loathsome war commander of Aggressor, Brig Gen Efo Kouami Kossi, was attending to “the old lady’s call” in the bushes nearby when he heard artillery fire striking his camp, he ran naked towards his trench to take cover, but tripped and fell awkwardly into his trench, breaking his neck to his death. The second in command (2-I-C), Col Agbotui Miva, blamed his warlord’s demise on the GAF and vowed to avenge his boss.
Surprisingly, the war commanders of Ghana noticed that the enemy was advancing towards the loyal troops in groups, hence artillery fire was released to weaken their front, which worked to perfection, as sections 1 and 2 of one of the platoons, followed-up to clear the rest of the adversary in the area.
When the COAS was informed of the death of the Aggressor warlord, he immediately flew to HiCom to help his able war commander to further strengthen the reclamation war and further boost the morale of the troops.
Day 3 – Operation Fibua (Fighting In Built Up Area)
Intelligence gathered from the Miotso, Tsopoli, Ningo, Saglemi and Nyigbenya areas suggested that two platoons of the Infantry Division, together with a Mechanised Brigade of Aggressor forces, had crossed Nyigbenya and were camping on the Miotso plains, rehearsing assault attacks to be unleashed on the Ghanaian troops and that, at times, they would use building and other habitations as human shields for their intentions.
To counter this technique, two platoons were airlifted to a location that was close to the enemy as is said that “in warfare, surprise is the greatest element” and as they engaged the enemy from one flank, the 48 Engineers went to work on the other flank and this really mesmerized Aggressor. Many POWs were taken of the Aggressor as three sections from the GAF troops followed up to clear the area. But for a few injuries sustained, none of the GAF warriors were taken for POWs.
Day 4 – Withdrawal
After a careful review of events so far, HiCom decided that the terrain being used to engage the enemy was not tenable, hence the decision to withdraw to a conducive plain for battle, to fix the enemy.
The regular leader of the troops, Captain Richard Gyau, had been gravely injured by gunfire in the previous raid, hence he was replaced by his able deputy, Lieutenant Mary “Tunde”, per the decision of HiCom as the GAF troops trekked for about 30km to the designated point, towards New Ningo.
Aggressor fell for the retreat bait as they misunderstood the technique and started pursuing the GAF warriors. They ran after them until the Nos.1 and 2 Platoons of the 1BN, enveloped them and dealt with them decisively.
It was at this point that the stand-in warlord of Aggressor forces, Col. Agbotui was cornered by No1 Platoon WO, WO2 Koomson, at gun-point. The Aggressor Colonel, all of a sudden, started vomiting all his lunch amidst profuse sweating, assuming that it was his last moment on the planet, but the WO, a typically humorous Fantiman, bursting into fits of laughter, dispossessed him of all weapons, tied his hands and took him for POW, to the huge admiration of his brigade war commander, the GOC.
Intelligence gathering is still ongoing, as residents in the general area have been helping the GAF troops with information which suggests that there are still pockets of Aggressor forces who may be littered all over and are likely to regroup for attack, hence 2BN is being prepared to standby.
All surrounding towns, villages, cottages and hamlets in the operational area have been conscientized and are calmly going about their usual businesses.
Simulation Aggressor was played by 64 Infantry Regiment, 66 Artillery and Recce Regiments provided supporting artillery and mortar fire for the exercise.