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10 Things about Western Accord

During June 26 to July 24, 2012, more than 1,200 military service men and women are participating in Western Accord, an inaugural exercise in Thiés, Senegal, designed to improve peacekeeping capabilities and proficiencies. Participating nations this year include Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, The Gambia and France, along with another 600 military personnel from the United States. Below are ten facts regarding the exercise.

1.  Exercise Western Accord 2012 is a multi-lateral training exercise with West African nations to increase understanding and interoperability, prevent conflict by enabling Africans to provide for their security and stability, strengthen relationships with partner nations, and promote and support U.S. national security priorities.  Task Force Commander, Colonel Anthony Fernandez, III said, “Our combined efforts and shared purpose will not only pave the way for future regional exercises but also forge a personal bond amongst our warriors.”

2.  Western Accord 2012 is led by U.S. Marine Forces Africa and sponsored by U.S. Africa Command.

3.  The exercise includes: live-fire and combat marksmanship training, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, and intelligence capacity building.

4. Concurrent with the exercise, U.S.military professionals from the Vermont Army National Guard, along with a Senegalese Medical Detachment, will provide medical assistance to the local residents in and around the communities of Dakar and Thiés.

5.  The U.S. and African medical and dental staffs  treated nearly 1,800 patients in Senegal during Western Accord 2012.  “It’s a great opportunity,” said Air Force Captain Jason Galipeau, the project officer with the 158th Fighter Wing located in South Burlington, Virginia. “It feels great. It is something that will stick with [the service members] through their whole career.”

6.  Participating U.S. forces include Marines from the 3rd Battalion and 25th Marine Regiment, who will be making up the primary element of the task force, along with reservists from all across the U.S. to include the 4th Medical Battalion, Vermont Army National Guard, and Marine Wing Support Squadron 473.  “It’s been a really great experience being able to share and work with our African partners.  I think it’s important for us to be on the same level of training as much as we can be,” said Lance Corporal Ryan M. Logan, an assistant gunner, Lima Company, 3/25.

7.  One theme of the exercise is listening to the perspectives of African leaders and citizens.  This enables participants to understand the challenges Africans face, to conduct programs in response to their requests, and to ensure their security needs are being met.

8.  Western Accord is designed to provide combined arms training for ground combat elements while simultaneously providing humanitarian assistance to local residents.

9. As part of Western Accord 2012, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment will be spending time with joint forces from the various West African nations to train and exchange their shared experiences of non-lethal weapons and crowd-control tactics.  “First thing we did was find out what kind of experiences they had because it’s a possibility they have more real-world experience in these kinds of scenarios than us.  We also want to know what they can teach us,” said Sergeant Jonah L. Saylers, an instructor for non-lethal weapons and crowd control techniques from Lima Company, 3/25.

10.  Distinguished visitors of Western Accord 2012 included: General Carter F. Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command; Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Jones, U.S. Defense Attaché to Senegal; Colonel Douglas Fairfeld, chief of staff for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa; The Honorable Robert Yamate, Charge d’Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar; Brigadier General Richard N. Harris Jr., chief of joint staff of the Vermont Air National Guard; Admiral Ousmane, Ibrahima Sall, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of Senegal; Brigadier General Pape Samba Kamara, chief of the Senegalese army; Brigadier General Gregoire Saint-Quentin, commander, French Elements in Senegal; Colonel Vinta Some, Burkina Faso Contingent commander, ECOWAS Standby Force; Abdoulie Kah, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Defense, Gambia; Brigadier General Namory Traore, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces, Guinea.

A Firsthand Account of AFRICOM’s Pandemic Response Program

This blog post was written by Brigadier General Stayce Harris, U.S. Africa Command’s mobilization reserve assistant to the commander.

Over the past 2 years, I have had the honor of working with AFRICOM/J5’s Pandemic Response Program (PRP) run by AFRICOM, funded by USAID and implemented by CDHAM (Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine).   One of Africa Command’s strategic objectives is “assisting partner nations with protecting populations from emerging infectious diseases.” The role of PRP is to assist in strengthening African partner military nations’ capacities to respond to a pandemic in support of their national pandemic response plan.  The key themes of PRP are the importance of preparedness for a response, clear command and control in multi-jurisdictional disasters and regional cooperation during a severe pandemic disaster.

I’ve witnessed this exercise transition and mature, moving from the facilitators and presenters coming from the United States to our most recent exercise in Burkina Faso where the facilitators and presenters were our African partners!  What a success, “African solutions for Africa”! 

During this Burkina Faso PRP exercise, the Partner Nation’s civilian government leaders, military leaders, NGOs, IOs and regional partners that have an expertise in Pandemic Disaster management gather for a week-long tabletop exercise.  The exercise “stress tests” and validates the nation’s pandemic response plan in areas that include health, security, logistics, communications, operations amongst others areas depending on the nation’s requirements.  We must keep in mind that health and security issues are closely linked. 

In addition to the national exercises, PRP has regional exercises.  Regional cooperation is the key as pandemics and disasters know no borders, and the stronger the regional communication and cooperation in the event of a pandemic disaster, the greater chance of saving more lives.  The regional partnerships enable partners to share their best practices, capabilities and capacities to better work with each other.

It was a pleasure being in Burkina Faso for the last exercise and having the opportunity to visit regional fire brigades Sapeurs Pompiers and the nation’s firefighting school in Bobo Dioulasso.  The men and women truly live up to their motto of “Sauver ou Perir” (Save or Perish)!

Our women’s luncheon in Burkina Faso was a particular highlight, as we bonded in sisterhood and together are committed to saving lives in our nations as well as serving as mentors and positive role models for those (women and men) that follow.  

I hold firm to the personal belief that there is no greater duty than saving lives, and that’s what the Pandemic Response Program accomplishes.  It enables a nation to test their national disaster response plan in order to maximize the lives saved in the event of a pandemic or other disaster.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve with this beneficial and rewarding program and more importantly to create working relationships and lifetime friendships with our African partners!

10 Things about Africa Partnership Station

Here’s a brief introduction to Africa Partnership Station (APS), U.S. Naval Forces Africa’s (NAVAF) flagship maritime security cooperation program. The focus of APS is to build maritime safety and security by increasing maritime awareness, response capabilities and infrastructure:

1)   One major focus of APS in 2011 was the beginning of African partners taking the lead in training other APS participants.

2)   APS engagement has involved over 30 African, European and South American nations, and interest to participate continues to grow.

3)   APS is inspired by the belief that effective maritime security will benefit all nations and contributes to development, economic prosperity and security, and will help deter violent extremist ideology ashore.

4)   Since 2007, APS has progressed from a series of bilateral port visits to a series of regional training engagements ashore and at sea.

5)   APS is developing African solutions to global problems and builds upon long-standing relationships.

6)  APS seeks to improve capabilities with partner naval forces using four “pillars” to increase maritime safety and security: Develop Maritime Domain Awareness—maintaining a clear picture of the maritime environment; build maritime professionals;                   establish maritime infrastructure; and develop response capabilities while building regional integration.

7)     Djibouti, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, and Seychelles participate in exercise Cutlass Express for the first time in October 2011.

8) Through APS, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and NAVAF conduct engagement activities with international partners and governmental/non-governmental organizations to enhance African partner nations’ self sustaining capability to effectively maintain maritime security within their inland waterways, territorial waters, and exclusive economic zones.

9)     African, European and North and South American partners, and non-governmental organizations share a common goal of regional prosperity, stability and peace.

10)  In port for Africa Partnership Station 2012, High Speed Vessel Swift sailors recently completed their community service project at Kinondi Muslim High School in Tanzania.

Africa Snapshot: Djibouti

Located on the Horn of Africa, the Republic of Djibouti shares borders with Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.  The country sits on the Bab el Mandeb Strait, which separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. Djibouti gained its independence from France on June 27, 1977, but keeps close ties with the European nation.  More than 75% of its population lives in urban areas.

Population: According to the CIA Factbook, the estimated population for July 2012 will be 774,389. The entire country is almost as big as the state of Massachusetts.

Languages: Most Djiboutians are multilingual; Arabic and French are the official languages of Djibouti, but Somali is the most widely spoken language. Afar is spoken in the Afar areas.

Religion: 94% of the population is Muslim, while 6% is Christian.

History: Early history of Djibouti was recorded through poems and songs. The earliest natives traded hides and skins for perfumes and other goods with people in Egypt, India and China.  Because of its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula,

the Somali and Afar tribes were the first on the continent to adopt Islam.

The French became increasingly interested in the area, then named French Somaliland, after the Suez Canal opened in 1869.    Trade flourished, and a new Franco-Ethiopian railway further increased trade relations. France struggled to maintain control of the region; after reorganizing, the colony was almost completely self-governed in the late 1950s.  In 1977, the colony became the Republic of Djibouti, and Hassan Gouled Aptidon was elected  the first president.  Djibouti still remains close to France, which provides economic aid and security.

Djibouti is the headquarters for the European Union’s “Atalanta” naval task force, which aids in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. 

Economy: With few natural resources and little industry, Djibouti relies heavily on banking, telecommunications and trade. Due to its ideal location and status as a free-trade zone, Djibouti is considered to be the trade hub in the Horn of Africa. It is quite reliant on imported consumer products.  The Djibouti-Addis Abba railway is a crucial source of revenue for the country, especially since more than three-fifths of Djibouti’s workforce is unemployed.

Relationship with the United States: Djibouti has maintained a healthy relationship with the United States since its independence in 1977.  The U.S. has been instrumental in providing humanitarian aid to the country, particularly in famine relief.  In 2002, Djibouti agreed to host an American military presence of about 2,200 at Camp Lemonnier, a former French base.  The USAID’s Food for Peace program has a warehouse for pre-positioned emergency food relief in Djibouti.  It is the only one of its kind outside of the continental United States.

Sources: CIA Factbook , Brittanica Online , U.S. Department of State Background Note – Djibouti

Other views on African Lion 2012

We’ve posted a lot in the past two weeks about the U.S. – Moroccan exercise African Lion, which wrapped up yesterday in Morocco. The exercise involved about 1,200 U.S. and 900 Moroccan military members sharing knowledge and training on everything from amphibious assault landings to water purification to medical and dental treatment.

We’ve brought you stories, photos and videos of it all, thanks to our U.S. Marine Forces Africa and 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit public affairs personnel.

But how was the event viewed in Morocco? Like most such engagements, there are supporters and detractors.

Our on-staff Arab linguist translated some of the local media reports and online commentary for us. Here are some excerpts:

The objective of this exercise is to strengthen the capabilities of both militaries to maneuver, fight terrorism and gather Intel, in addition to conducting other social activities by providing humanitarian services and aid to the local population.

Assdae Al-Maghreb Online

“African Lion aims to ‘reinforce the coordination and cooperation between the armed forces of both countries, and the mutual understanding of their respective military techniques and standard operating procedures.'”

Sheba Center for Strategic Studies

“Ahmed Chnaoui, the General Coordinator of the Movement for the consideration of the tribe of  the ‘Oulad Buaayta’  … directly criticized the Commander of the Southern Military Region, General de Corps d’Armee, Abdelazizi Bennani, ‘who turned the area which belongs to the noble Oulad Buaayta tribe into an international experimental military center which hosts, among others, NATO air forces.’”


“Because of what is happening close to our lovely kingdom, it’s not enough to have a weapon but you must know how to use it as well. So for the people who are living around the military area, it’s not bad to sacrifice for the country.”

— Reader comment on Hespress

” A well-trained army will protect us from the enemies who surround us.”

— Reader comment on Hespress

“Morocco sure needs to conduct exercises with USMC (United States Marine Corps) for our national security because we have three neighbors at risk, Mauritania, Mali and southern Algerian. The world security evolves and so must Morocco.”

— Reader comment on Hespress

All about Naval Forces Africa and Marine Forces Africa

Tanzanian and U.S. personnel conduct medical training as part of Africa Partnership Station 2012 (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony R. Martinez/U.S. Navy)

This is our last in a series of posts this week about some of AFRICOM’s component commands. Component commands are the building blocks of a joint command like AFRICOM, which draws from all services and military specialties. Previously this week, we introduced you to U.S. Army Africa (USARAF)U.S. Air Forces Africa and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. Our other component command is Special Operations Command Africa. Today we introduce you to U.S. Naval Forces Africa and U.S. Marine Forces Africa.

Location: Naval Forces Africa is part of Naval Forces Europe and the  U.S. Sixth Fleet located in Naples, Italy. Marine Forces Africa is located at Panzer Kaserne in Stuttgart, Germany.

Staff:  Since NAVAF is part of  U.S. Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet, there are no firm numbers for  personnel that work specifically with AFRICOM. The Naval Forces Europe headquarters includes about 620 personnel. Marine Forces Africa includes approximately 400 people.

Leadership: NAVAF falls under Admiral Bruce W. Clingan, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet. The MARFOREUR commander is Lt. Gen. John M. Paxton, Jr.

AOR: The NAVEUR/NAVAF area of responsibility covers more than 20 million nautical miles of ocean and includes Russsia, Europe and most of Africa. MARFORAF operates on and around the continent of Africa.

African partnerships: NAVEUR/NAVAF conducts Africa Partnership Station, which involves ship visits and training across Africa. Marine Forces Africa will embark next week on Africa Lion in Morocco, the largest bilateral training exercise on the continent.

Interested in learning more?  Visit the NAVEUR/NAVAF home page here, or the MARFORAF page here .

Benin maritime conference wraps up

Delegates at the Maritime Safety and Security Seminar this week in Benin. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi/U.S. Africa Command)

A record number of piracy attacks were reported in the Gulf of Guinea last year, according to the International Maritime Organization, making it one of the top 10 piracy hotspots in the world and prompting a push by insurers to label the region “high risk.”

Those are distinctions countries in the area would like to see go away.

This week in Benin, member states of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States  discussed how to prevent piracy, smuggling and other security challenges affecting the region’s waterways and commercial trade. The two groups, plus experts and representatives from outside organizations, met for two days at the annual Maritime Safety and Security Seminar, hosted by U.S. Africa Command and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

In October, the United Nations passed resolution 2018, which encourages the affected states to work together and also calls for more international aid and a UN assessment mission. Also last year, Nigeria and Benin launched joint sea patrols that resulted in the arrests of at least eight alleged pirates.

The seminar built on previous meetings and continued the effort to cement an agreement between the West and Central African states involved.

“This initiative comes at a time when the menace of and threat posed by piracy is touching the pillars of the economy of both the coastal and land locked states in our region,” according to Lt. Col. Abdourahmane Dieng, Senegal head of regional security. “Within West Africa, and the Gulf of Guinea in particular, we can identify a series of trans-border crimes such as hijacking, armed robbery, illegal migration, illicit fishing, toxic waste dumping, human trafficking, illegal drug trafficking, piracy and hostage taking.”

Col. Austin Anyalechi, a Nigerian Army engineer and his country’s defense attaché to Cotonou, said collaborative efforts like those emphasized at this week’s meeting are key to preventing maritime crime and security threats.

“All efforts have been made by individual nations, but no single nation can combat the problem of piracy alone,” Anyalechi said. “That’s why it calls for the need for synergy. So, with the two economic communities coming together under this kind of arrangement, I am very optimistic that it is actually going to yield the desired result of curbing the menace of piracy and sea robbery, and other related forms of maritime insecurity.

Note: Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi, U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs, reported this week from Benin. Click here to read the entire story. 

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