January 27, 2010
WHEN a Senegalese military unit convoyed nearly 1,900 miles from coastal West Africa to a multi-national exercise in Burkina Faso, a senior U.S. Army Africa maintenance expert took note.
Such a long overland journey was difficult at best, but the Senegalese soldiers accomplished the deployment without any breakdowns or mishaps, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Randy Austin.
"It's pretty amazing they could do that, and then be ready for training upon their arrival. Even their morale was high after that long drive," Austin said. "It shows they are prepared in maintenance, and certainly have some serious determination."
Austin, of Adrian, Mich., recently took part in JIGUI 2009, a logistical exercise carried out by the Economic Community of West African States Standby Force in Burkina Faso's Kaya province, a remote region roughly 60 miles northeast of the country's capital, Ouagadougou. In the Bambara language of Mali, the word "jigui" means "hope."
The African force is made up of police, military and civilian organizations, that can be called upon during a regional crisis to promote stability through peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. The ECOWAS brigade is one of five regional standby units under the African Standby Force, headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
This year, the peacekeeping exercise focused on logistical capabilities. Nearly 1,300 troops took part, to include observers from several international partner nations. The exercise goal was to challenge a logistics battalion in their ability to support standby forces in peace-support operations-how they deploy, their ability to communicate and the interoperability between partnering nations' forces.
"West African logistics and maintenance soldiers have grown their ability to support a task force in the field," Austin said. "The more they work together, the better prepared they will become, should they be called upon for peacekeeping duties."