In Africa, capacity building is where Army gets 'bang for buck'
September 30, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 30, 2011) -- The Army sponsored the second in a series of African Defense Attache' roundtables Sept. 29 at the Pentagon to reinforce professional military-to-military relations.
These roundtables encourage dialogue on U.S. Army activities and current U.S. government foreign policy concerns within the African security environment.
Hosted by the Africa Branch of G-35 International Affairs Division, the day brought 18 African military attachés to meet with U.S. Ambassador Tatiana C. Gfoeller, the new political advisor to the Army chief of staff; Col. Kim Field, deputy director for strategy, plans and policy; and African specialists from the Joint and DOD Pentagon community.
Also joining the group was Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg, commander of U.S. Africa Command, who flew in from his headquarters in Vicenza, Italy.
The key for the Army, Hogg said, is building capacity that will actually get used.
"This is what we want to do when we partner with you all," Hogg told the African defense attachés.
"The intent is for you to continue to carry that on within your institution to improve upon it. We don't just want to go in there and have 'high-fives' and we leave. We want to make sure we get the most bang for the buck when we're working together," Hogg said.
He cited a program in Uganda where the Army was to develop a low-cost method of doing aerial resupply of small units out in the bush.
"We worked out how to run a drop zone, and I think we all know, as Soldiers, our biggest challenge in doing operations is logistics how do we get stuff to our Soldiers out in the field, especially when you don't have an infrastructure developed," Hogg said.
One of the other challenges that happened during that exercise was how to improvise. Because of relationship building, both in country and with other organizations, one problem was solved and relationships were built stronger.
"We didn't have any DVS17 panels, the bright, fluorescent orange panels that are laid out on the ground to land helicopters or to show where boxes of items can be kicked out for an aerial drop," he said.
Luckily, the Peace Corps representative said that the girls' school where he was teaching could make the panels.
"In northern Uganda, where women were kidnapped and abused, reintegration back into society has been a challenge. The girls' school is an attempt to help and also to teach a trade. They were able to sew the large square panels for use in the aerial drops," he said.
Capacity building was enhanced because one Soldier trained during the exercise was sent to Somalia to help with the famine during aerial drops of food.
With about 1,700 people at 54 embassies in Africa, U.S. Africa South Soldiers are also ready to counter the spread of violent extremism, protect U.S. national interests and help during medical exercises.
"Down in Malawi, we brought in a surgeon team and they did cataract surgery. It took about seven minutes of surgery, each, to help nearly 400 men and women, who had been blind in some cases for 10 years, to see again. But we were also able to establish relationships with doctors in that country. That's huge," Hogg said.
There's two sides of the street, he said.
"They don't like to partner with the military because they see us as military oriented, versus some of the other things we do in country. And I think we all have that same challenge," he told the military attachés.
Outlining some of the recent crises such as piracy off the coast of Nigeria and Benin, and pandemic disease, Hogg told the panel that AFRICOM's mission is full-spectrum operations. But more important, it's sustained security engagement.
"That's our bread and butter, that's what we do the majority of, with you all, with your Soldiers and with your leaders," Hogg said.
AFRICOM is there to support the ambassador and his country team, he said.
"These people have relationships with their political and military folks and together they're able to identify areas where they want training or equipment. We look at what they need from the terms of what we can do to support that embassy and their mission's requests," he said, adding that capacity building is the ultimate goal.
"When you're looking at the regional problems, there's not a single country solution. It has to be a regional solution," Hogg said, adding that in Africa, it's multi-cultural, so depending where you are, there's a different way of doing business.
"This is why Africa is important. It's to assist, where asked, other African land forces to develop their capabilities so that we get the regional solutions," he said.