FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (May 27, 2010) - While the U.S. Africa Command's area of responsibility is massive, its commanding general wants intermediate-level military officers to know that its individual missions are on a much smaller scale.

Gen. William "Kip" Ward became the first commander of U.S. Africa Command on Oct. 1, 2007. One year later, it became an independent, unified command with its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. He spoke to Intermediate Level Education course students in the Command and General Staff College May 25.

"(There are) 1,000 missions, activities, programs, exercises, across a continent three and half times the size of United States every day and you don't know a thing about it," he told officers.

In addition to its size, Africa has 54 nations whose citizens speak more than 1,000 languages. Ward said it's in the best interests of the U.S. that Africa become a more stable region, so AFRICOM's interests are in providing military training, assisting humanitarian efforts with partner agencies, countering terrorism and building strong relationships. Ward gave examples of more than 18 security-building initiatives AFRICOM has with its partners, including noncommissioned officer development, military intelligence basic officer course, maritime domain awareness, humanitarian mine awareness and many others. AFRICOM forces are currently training forces in the Congo and Liberia.

"Ten years from now each of us will be thankful that we're doing it today," he said. "This command is about prevention as opposed to reaction. It's a part of the world that's important to all of us."

Ward gave examples of small efforts that are making a big difference. A single ship, part of a cooperative effort between the U.S. Coast Guard and FBI, worked with one local country's law enforcement personnel to conduct maritime arrests.

"The second they had the vessels out, it intercepted a foreign shipping vessel that was sucking its waters dry of fish," Ward said.

He said the shipping vessel was not properly licensed and was fined. The native country was able to use the fined money to build up its own law enforcement capabilities, Ward said.

In another example, Ward talked about a single Navy petty officer who worked on information technology in an island nation country for two years. The entire country was able to get its maritime surveillance system running because of one U.S. military member, he said.

"It doesn't take squadrons and (brigade combat teams) and wings," he said. "It takes a little bit, and in (Africa) a little bit goes a long way. That's why we pay attention to it. In ways that will make a difference, not tomorrow, not next week, but in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years from now, what we do today in helping create a continent that's more stable and that's in our best interests."

Ward said AFRICOM wants to work with or alongside sovereign nations in Africa, not compete with them. One officer asked about AFRICOM's relationship with China, a country that has been gaining influence in the region.

"I think there are increasing signs that the approach that has been traditionally used by the Chinese - that is as long as we have access, we don't care what you're doing - there are signs that approach is changing," he said. "For me personally, we don't compete with the Chinese. We can't. We do what we do as Americans as best we can in helping to professionalize, bolster (military) capacity so there is not a dependency on us to do what it is that these nations offer themselves in the national security realm."

Ward said in prioritizing military efforts in Africa, economics was the least important. For example, the fact that oil was discovered off the coast of Ghana really had no effect on what AFRICOM does in that country, he said.

Maj. Mark Hurd, a student in the 2010-01 class, said he was impressed with AFRICOM's scope and the strategies Ward is using to meet its challenges.

"I do believe AFRICOM will become more important and give a lot toward our understanding of the counterinsurgency mission," Hurd said.

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