Sergeant Daniel T. West, Africa Endeavor Public Affairs team wrote
Africa Endeavor 2011 kicked off June 12, 2011 much like many other training exercises do. There were a few bumps in the road, a few hurdles and a number of technical details to straighten out.
With 34 African nations, five western nations and five international organizations participating, that was to be expected.
Since the opening day featured a schedule packed brim-full with classroom topics for participants, the loss of power just as class was set to start provided the largest obstacle of the day. With a great effort by the Gambian hosts of the exercise, though, it proved much less daunting than it could have been, providing only a small delay for the start of classes.
Today’s menu of classes ranged from information security to network setup and antenna theory. While some provoked more questions than others, all provided valuable information for the delegates attending.
Captain Marchel Ledder, of the Netherlands, proved pleased with the reaction he provoked in his class on information security, even though the questions didn’t come right away.
He didn’t get much reaction when he finished his class, and the dreaded final slide asking for questions popped up, he said. When he continued teaching, involving the students, he began what he described as a nice discussion, talking about what points they’d gotten across.
The discussion continued with questions ranging from the complex to the basic. All the questions were valid, he said, and reflected a broad variance in the levels of experience with technology in his audience. He added that they were genuinely interested in the subject matter.
While his audience included representatives of several countries, he couldn’t recall which ones.
“It was a bit of everyone,” he said. “It’s hard to focus on the country because I see people. I focus on their faces, not their uniforms.”
They all came with one purpose, to learn — from each other as well as the instructors.
One group from Mali came as observers in advance of another operation scheduled for 2012 there. Their true lessons didn’t necessarily take place in the classroom, but rather across the entire exercise. They observed to see what will go wrong and what will go right, to see the tools they need to make their operation a success.
It’s been very good, said Lieutenant Colonel Abdolay Sidibe.
It’s also good that many of the countries participating in Africa Endeavor will also be participating in Flintlock 12, next year’s exercise, he added, walking toward their tent.
Even after lunch, a time dreaded by many a student, participants remained alert and watchful, ready to learn whatever they could to improve their communications both within their own militaries and with their partners across Africa.
No start is perfect, and this one had its flaws.
Still, it started well, and only promises to improve with age.