Archive for July, 2010

U.S. Africa Command Academic Symposium in Dakar

On 7/26/2010 4:09:07 PM Brigadier General Stayce D. Harris, Mobilization Reserve Assistant to the Commander wrote

A wealth of meaningful dialogue was exchanged in Dakar, Senegal this month at the fourth U.S. Africa Command Academic Symposium, a partnership of Africa Command and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). The symposium aimed to provide recommendations to Africa Command on how it can improve its peace and security efforts in Africa.

As a participant in one of the small group forums, we discussed the presentations given by subject matter experts from areas ranging from trafficking and trans-national threats to civil-military relations. Equipped with that knowledge and based on our own experiences, we developed recommendations to the command on how it can better engage in the future. For me, it was a great learning experience to meet with nearly 80 African, European and U.S. academics to openly discuss strategies for Africa Commands future emphasizing a security focused vision as expressed by our African partners. Our group brought forth recommendations regarding gender issues, civilian oversight, good governance and food security to name a few.

Thank you to Africa Command and ACSS for providing this forum for this valuable exchange.

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Pandemic Response Exercise in Benin

The following blog is by Brigadier General Stayce D. Harris, U.S. Africa Command’s Mobilization Reserve Assistant to the Commander

I recently provided the opening remarks at U.S. Africa Command’s first pandemic response table top exercise in West Africa held in Cotonou, Benin, June 21-25, 2010.

Africa Command’s role, under the USAID Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative, is to assist in strengthening African partner military nations’ capacity to respond to a pandemic influenza disaster in the context of a larger national pandemic preparedness and response plan.

More than a hundred military and civilian representatives from more than a dozen African countries, the African Union, as well as national and international organizations participated in the exercise. It was designed to assist the Beninese government and its regional partners with identifying gaps in their current influenza plan and practice responding to potential disaster scenarios. Our Pandemic Response Program will continue to have a regional focus to help improve the capacity for regional collaboration in the event of a complex humanitarian emergency such as a pandemic disaster.

During the week, Major General Mathieu Boni, Benin’s Chief of Defense, invited us to view the flooded areas of Cotonou. The visit added another layer of realism to the exercise, as I viewed first-hand how the effects of flooding can impact the health, security, economic and food infrastructures of a society. The flooding can also be a fertile breeding ground for the spread of a pandemic influenza. African partner nations shared similar examples of flooding in their nations and offered strategies and remedies to assist.

My heartfelt thanks to the Government of Benin, Benin Armed Forces, our African partners, the US Embassy in Benin, the United States Agency for International Development-Mission in Benin, our staff at US Africa Command and the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine for working together to coordinate and organize this important partnering event.

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Supporting Shared Accord in Mozambique

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On 7/26/2010 9:18:42 AM Sergeant Lydia Davey, Marine Forces Africa wrote

I thought I knew what to expect from the continent of Africa. Granted, my feet have only touched soil in seven countries here, but somehow I felt that I had it all figured out. However, Mozambique is full of surprises and newness.

The first surprise was the weather. I disembarked from the small aircraft yesterday morning into what can best be described as a tropic chill. Winter along the coast of southern Africa consists of temperatures typically ranging from 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit, and yesterday’s cool morning air begged for a jacket. No hot weather here.

The second surprise was the easy fusion of Portuguese and African styles in food, language and architecture. Although Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal more than thirty years ago, this place has certainly retained elements of that influence. Portuguese is still spoken here, the food has a distinctly Mediterranean flair (lots of grilled fish, simply prepared vegetables, and fresh fruit), and many of the homes and buildings here are constructed with red tile roofs and beautifully worked wrought iron.

Today’s events included a military brief to members of the local press about an upcoming combined exercise, SHARED ACCORD. One of the things I love about being a journalist is the sense of community that exists within our world. As U.S. and Mozambique military leaders spoke, the photographers, writers and videographers moved effortlessly around each other. With facial expressions and improvised sign language, we easily communicate our need for certain shots or angles. It didn’t matter that I don’t understand Portuguese, or that they might not speak English. We all had the same mission and a similar understanding of the courtesy and effort required to make that mission successful. That type of understanding is what I believe SHARED ACCORD will provide for Mozambique and the U.S. during the coming weeks.

I will be working in Mozambique’s capital city, Maputo, as the press chief for SHARED ACCORD until its conclusion August 13. The exercise, which is an annual, scheduled event, allows U.S. and Mozambique troops to become familiar with each other’s operating styles, and to build the capacity of Mozambique forces for future peacekeeping operations. I am excited to be here, and looking forward to the chance to exchange information, ideas and experiences with people from this already fascinating place. Can’t wait to share the adventure with you.

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Military Food Security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Guest Blogger: Amanda B. Edgell, Borlaug Graduate Student Intern

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 Amanda Edgell, a summer intern for the Borlaug Institute, is working at Camp Base in Kisangani on the agriculture project.  She is sending periodic blogs on the project’s progress.

Contracted to produce a large-scale agriculture project on Camp Base outside Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture has been working with a small unit of soldiers from the Armed Forces of the DRC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, widely known as FARDC) since March 2010 with the end goal of making the training base self-sufficient in food production for the permanent cadre. 

An opening ceremony was held here at Camp Base February 17, 2010 marking the establishment of a light infantry battalion that is being trained by the United States.  This Department of State funded train-and-equip mission, which will end in mid-September 2010, is just one part of a long-term, multiagency, international approach to promote defense sector reform in the DRC. 

The FARDC have a history of pillaging local communities for food and other supplies.  So as part of the U.S. Africa Command training mission at Camp Base, the Borlaug Institute is working to ensure food security for the soldiers and their families, thereby decreasing the frequency and hopefully eliminating this looting all together.

As a summer intern for the Borlaug Institute, I have had the pleasure of working on this unique project that will have a large impact on how the FARDC soldiers view themselves and how they interact with their local community.

So far, a local construction company has cleared 11 hectares of land for staple food, fish, pig, goat, and vegetable production.  Soldiers from the agriculture unit planted 5.5 hectares of maize and cassava in May and June 2010.  Two fish ponds amounting to about 25,000 cubic meters have been stocked with 40,500 tilapia and African Catfish fingerlings.  Another 150 hectares of land on Camp Base have been designated for cattle grazing.  A starter herd of 25-35 cattle will be purchased in the next few weeks.

The key to the Borlaug Institute’s project at Camp Base is sustainability – with a large focus on integrating traditional hand farming techniques with modern practices to produce the highest possible yield over the long term.  This requires a concentrated effort to ensure systems are put in place to sustain the Camp Base farm after the U.S. completes its training program.  For example, the Borlaug Institute has made use of a natural spring on camp for the fish ponds and for vegetable irrigation.  This has eliminated the need for expensive water filtration equipment and fuel-powered pumps that would require maintenance beyond the FARDC capacity in the future.    

When I arrived in Kisangani in mid-May, I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a unique project.  Despite studying development in both undergraduate and post-graduate work and visiting various projects while in Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa, the Borlaug Institute’s project at Camp Base offered something much different.  It is an opportunity for the FARDC soldiers to produce their own sources of basic food needs, the benefits of which will extend not only to their families, but to the city of Kisangani itself. 

Over the past two months, I have seen 40,500 fish stocked into an area that was little more than a giant mud hole when I arrived.   I have seen an open field transform into a thriving maize and cassava crop.  And I have seen a muddy hillside grow into a beautiful landscape of horticulture beds. 

Honestly, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

UN Peacekeeping and the Law Symposium

By Colonel Jon L. Lightner, JA, U.S. Army, Legal Counsel, U.S. Africa Command

I had the opportunity last week (6-9 July 2010) to attend and participate in the United Nations Peacekeeping and the Law Symposium in New York City.  The conference was jointly sponsored by the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the Center of Excellence for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, and the International Human Rights Institute of the DePaul University School of Law.  I got to hear a series of great presentations, including two directly related to Africa: one concerning the challenges of protecting civilians during the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and another on the strategic plan on military justice reforms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The highlight of my week, however, was a special breakout session on Friday devoted solely to the U.S. Africa Command and the lawyers of its State partners that are part of the State Partnership Program.  This special session could not have been possible without the outstanding support from Brigadier General Cassie Strom, who is the Air National Guard Assistant to the Staff Judge Advocate for Air Mobility Command. 

U.S. Africa Command currently has 8 state partners that are paired up with a corresponding country in Africa.  For example, Michigan has been paired with Liberia.  What a positive turnout we had from our State Partners.  In fact, the interest in our Command was so great that we had numerous representatives attending from States who are looking to join with African partners in our AOR.  The assembled group was provided with our Command and Office of the Legal Counsel briefs, and was also briefed on our Legal Engagements Plan, which was finalized and signed on 1 October 2009.  A goal of this breakout session was to provide our State partners with the necessary background about our Command and our legal office, emphasizing our office’s unique capability to plan, prioritize, and execute legal engagements in the AOR, consistent with our Command’s overall Theater Strategic Objectives (TSOs).  I also asked our State partners to review our Legal Engagements Plan and provide their input, so we can improve upon a revised plan and finalize it no later than 1 October 2010. 

What was truly encouraging about this collaborative session was the useful discussion we had concerning potential funding sources and activities.  I fully recognize the value of the support from our State legal partners — they come armed with authorities that can expand beyond our traditional military-to-military contacts and into military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian engagements.  They provide definite valued-added to activities in support of sustained security engagement.  I am excited about this shared endeavor with our State legal partners and I think that they too share my excitement.  We look forward a productive and cooperative relationship for many years to come.

Conference in Bahrain

By Colonel Childress, U.S. Africa Command’s Public Affairs Director


I just returned from a very productive and important meeting with our friends and colleagues from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Department of State (DOS), and the Pentagon.

The Conference was held in the kingdom of Bahrain. For those of you that don’t know where that is, it is an island just off the coast of Saudi Arabia and just north of Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. I arrived at 10 p.m. on the 11th of July. The city of Manama was beautiful at night. It was still very hot even at 2200. The temperature in the daytime reaches over 110 degrees Fahrenheit; it’s very hot. In fact, the government warns on signs not to go outside without wearing sunglasses.

The first day of the conference was held at the conference center of a hotel in the heart of the capital city–Manama. Rear Admiral Beck was the moderator for the conference and led it off by introducing Rear Admiral Hal Pittman, CENTCOM Director of Communication, who got things started with opening comments and announcements. The conference featured key Public Affairs professionals and a few folks from outside of the Defense Department who passed valuable lessons and messages to the CENTCOM communicators.

I found the conference invaluable to me as a communicator for several reasons. Let me share a few of my lessons learned with you from the conference:

1) No one has cornered the market on great ideas. It is vital to step outside your comfort zone and see how like-minded military and civilian professionals do their business. I learn valuable tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) each time I attend a conference held in another Combatant Commander’s Area of Responsibility.

2) Coming to these conferences offers a huge opportunity to build a network with trained professionals who are leaders in their fields. It is an invaluable experience to meet people face to face and discuss with them the issues of the day and ways in which we can work together in the future.

3) This conference was a great opportunity to recruit friends for our social media sites and introduce them to the LYnC. I had the opportunity to demo our website to a Major and a Staff Sergeant who work in CENTCOM. Both really liked our sites and promised to give them a second look.

4) Finally, it is very interesting to see the issue communicators have in the Middle East and compare them to challenges and opportunities we have in Africa. Many of the issues are precisely the same and many differ, but being able to ask questions and be immersed in the CENTCOM issues for two days reminds me that we are all on the same team and need to ensure that we cross-talk as much as possible on those issues that over lap our AOR’s.

I would like to close by sending a big Bravo Zulu (that means good job in Navy speak, see I am getting a good cross cultural education) out to CENTCOM and everyone who organized and participated in the communicator’s conference.

Communication is good, but excellent communication best.

Very Respectfully Submitted,

Colonel Childress with the NAVCENT Public Affairs Office

Colonel Childress with the NAVCENT Public Affairs Office

Franklin Childress
AFRICOM Public Affairs Officer

June 2010: Engaging with Partner African Militaries

By Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM Senior Enlisted Leader

June 2010 has been a very busy and rewarding month.

Command Sergeant Major Mark S. Ripka, United States Africa Command

Command Sergeant Major Mark S. Ripka, United States Africa Command

I just returned from my final June 2010 trip to Africa. The month started in Morocco with a visit to Exercise African Lion, followed by my first return visit to Liberia since Operation Onward Liberty began in January 2010. In the latter part of June I participated–along with United States Army, Marine Forces, and Air Forces Africa Command Senior Enlisted Leaders–in a Warrant Officer Leader Development Program for the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF). I returned to our headquarters briefly only to travel to Cape Verde to embark on the USS JOHN L. HALL as it transited from Cape Verde to Dakar, Senegal in support of African Maritime Law Enforcement Program and a Search and Rescue Exercise.

Exercise African Lion in Morocco is an annual exercise promoting training interoperability and integration of Royal Armed Forces of Morocco and US Marine Forces. This is my second visit to African Lion. Last year I visited the command post exercise in Agadir; this year I visited the field training and live fire exercise in Tan Tan. Each year the exercise builds on the preceding year’s activities which are what our partner nations are asking us to do in our exercise programs–improving operational capacity. Kudos to Marine Forces Africa for another successful exercise.

From the hot, dry desert in Morocco, I proceeded to the hot, steamy environs of Liberia. This is probably my 6th or 7th trip to Liberia over almost three years–during that time USAFRICOM has been supporting the development of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) under a Security Sector Reform (SSR) Program with US Department of State in the lead. US Department of Defense has been supporting–and continues to support–SSR via Defense Sector Reform focused activities in Liberia. In January 2010 Department of Defense, i.e. USAFRICOM via Marine Forces Africa, established Operation Onward Liberty (OOL). OOL consists of 45-52 US military personnel who partner with the AFL in order to build institutional, operational, and human capacity in the AFL. It’s still too early to attempt measure or assess results but from my discussions with AFL leaders, the OOL cadre is making a difference. We must be patient.

Toward the latter part of the month I departed again to Africa. This time to Sierra Leone to participate in the first WO Leader Development Program sponsored by the Navy Security Assistance Office in Pensacola, Florida. The three week professional military education (PME) program was held at the Horton Academy on the International Military Assistance Training Team (IMATT-UK led) compound in Freetown. Heretofore the Horton Academy hosted only officer PME. What was most profound was to see the WO Leader Development Program and the LTC-MAJ Staff Officer Program come together for several modules of instruction and guest presentations. This integration of officer and WO PME does not occur often, if at all, in Africa. I applaud the RSLAF for agreeing to this initiative; clearly, this could be an example for many to follow. We–the command senior enlisted leaders of US Army, Marine Forces, Air Forces, and AFRICOM–had the privilege of delivering guest presentations to the consolidated classes. These kinds of activities and engagements allow us to improve human/ leadership capacity in partner nations. We should be doing more of these types of engagements.

Finally, I closed out the month’s activities underway on the USS JOHN L. HALL, FFG 32. Each year I attempt to spend dedicated time with each of USAFRICOM’s service components in Africa. Throughout the year during my travels and engagements with partner nation leadership, I often meet US Army, Marine, and Air Force personnel conducting meaningful operational and human capacity building activities in Africa–on land. I don’t normally meet too many Sailors unless I intentionally focus on the maritime domain. So this was my time to focus my energy on our Shipmates. The result–AWESOME. The leaders and crew of the USS JOHN L. HALL FFG 32 out of Mayport, Florida were dedicated, motivated, and professional. We departed Mindelo, Cape Verde and were underway until Dakar, Senegal where I disembarked. While underway the ship conducted limited gunnery and helo operations. I continue to have the greatest admiration and respect for the USN. The Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Program (AMLEP) was abbreviated in Cape Verde but the Search and Rescue Exercise in Senegal was executed. In addition to me, the USS JOHN L. HALL also had two ship-riders from the Cape Verde Coast Guard. I was proud to be considered a Shipmate during our days underway. Here again, another program that improves and builds operational and human capacity in partner nations.

By now, anyone who has been following my blogs knows what guides me during all my engagements with partner nation military forces. It hasn’t changed.

In Africa:

1. Personal relationships are crucial. Everything is personal and this means being on the ground in Africa among Africans.
2. Listen, listen, listen. Talk is cheap. Listening is golden.
3. It’s for the long-term, not short term rotations or arbitrary timelines. Nothing happens quickly in Africa. Much will go wrong. Commitments and perseverance are essential.
4. Understand that actions speak louder than words. The image of America in much of Africa is that of a 20 year old Peace Corps volunteer who lives among the Africans, learns their language, earns little, and is eager to learn.

Look for my next blog in August.

(Command Sergeant Major Mark S. Ripka became United States Africa Command’s senior enlisted leader in November 2007. He previously served as command sergeant major of United States Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Command Sergeant Major Ripka holds the highest-ranking enlisted position in the command, serving as the principal enlisted advisor to the commander. You can learn more about CSM Ripka at

This blog is also on U.S. Africa Command’s AFRICOM Dialogue at

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