By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public AffairsOctober 28, 2013
U.S. Army Africa is involved in a myriad of events and activities on the African continent.
Whether it's a medical readiness exercise, an African partner-nation training, or a response to a natural disaster; a network of civilians and Soldiers work together to ensure USARAF mission objectives.
One of the elements integral for making the USARAF mission happen is a group of about a dozen liaison officers, or LNOs, who represent a variety of agencies and organizations connected to the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense.
U.S. Army Africa LNOs
•Col. Kevin McKelvy, Center for Army Lessons Learned
•Michael Lerario, Asymmetrical Warfare Group
•DC (Chet) Coltharp and Zachary Hadley, 21st Theater Support Command
•Maj. Christopher Sturm, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command
•Capt. Peter Blades and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Elsmore, 2-1ID (Regionally Aligned Force)
•Maj. Chris Chapman and Master Sgt. Ganege Dayaprema, Army Logistics Element
•Charles Schmoyer, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
•Lt. Col. John Crisafuli, USARAF LNO to U.S. Africa Command
•Col. Patrick Sullivan, USARAF LNO to Headquarters, Department of the Army
Lt. Col. Mark W. Anders, secretary of the general's staff for USARAF, explained the role of LNOs,
"LNOs support and reinforce the USARAF mission. LNOs represent organizations as varied as the Center for Army Lessons Learned to 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division," Anders said. "LNOs are essential to integrating and synchronizing USARAF operations with those of other organizations. They maximize efficiencies and transmit information directly to us."
Anders said LNOs provide a common understanding of missions and tactics and create positive working relationships between USARAF and their organization.
Brian Allin, deputy director of USARAF Operations, detailed why LNOs are important for USARAF.
"As the newest, yet smallest, Army Combatant Command, we don't have a tremendous amount of assigned resources. With assistance from LNOs, we can maximize and multiply our resources," Allin said. "LNOs help us understand their respective unit's capabilities and how USARAF can use those resources."
LNOs represent several organizations
Allin said LNOs working with USARAF are a mixture of Active, Guard and Reserve Soldiers as well as federal civilian and contract employees.
"A typical two-person LNO team can consist of an Army officer and a noncommissioned officer," Allin said. "Additionally, LNOs can be civilian contractors or government employees who are subject matter and organizational management experts."
Allin said the budget has impacted the number of LNOs originally assigned particularly for the Regionally Aligned Force known as the RAF.
"Originally we were looking at five LNOs for the RAF, however, with budgetary constraints that number was pared to three," Allin said. "Our nearly constant communication has allowed us to maximize our efficiencies with the RAF."
"In the case of all LNOs, they help streamline the planning process by informing USARAF of what they can and cannot provide the command in terms of mission and manpower," Allin said.
Col. Kevin McKelvy is a liaison officer for the Center for Army Lessons Learned also known as CALL. CALL is a part of the U.S. Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
McKelvy said his role as a LNO is two-fold.
"I represent CALL and collect data from missions completed by USARAF. My other role is to assist USARAF Soldiers and leadership in using CALL's tools," McKelvy said. "In many respects it can be a symbiotic relationship. I have the opportunity to set up both learning and teaching opportunities," said McKelvy, a resident of Fort Lee, N.J.
Center for Lessons Learned
McKelvy explains how CALL works with USARAF and its various missions.
"USARAF is involved in variety of security cooperation missions on the African continent. During the mission planning process one question invariably comes up, 'Has this type of mission been done before?' That's where CALL can help," McKelvy said.
McKelvy said USARAF personnel use and provide data for his organization.
"CALL is an excellent data mining service for planners. As a conduit between CALL and USARAF, I can help USARAF planners look at data that has been captured at an Army Service Component Command or joint level for previous similar missions. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Looking at similar missions can help planners streamline efforts and avoid previous oversights," McKelvy said. "Here in USARAF, Maj. Gen. Donahue recognizes CALL's benefits and the ability to expand capacity for missions on the African continent."
USARAF missions also add to data collected by CALL.
"Conversely," he said, "data gathered from USARAF missions can have significant impact to other unit's future missions and can result in not only saving tax-payer's money, but possibly saving lives as well. By looking at similar missions where data has been collected and assembled, CALL has the tools to advise commanders so they don't have to start from scratch during mission planning and preparation."
Trend setting operations
According to McKelvy, missions planned and executed by USARAF are ground-breaking and the data collected from these missions are especially helpful partly due to the work with joint services such as the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
"USARAF, in many respects, is on the leading edge of what the Army will look like in the very near future at an Army combatant command level," he said.
They have created a way to function extremely efficiently from a financial and troop management standpoint," McKelvy said. "From a very small footprint they are able to pull Soldiers from a regionally aligned force in the U.S. as needed, an in a dedicated way be able to apply these troops in security cooperation missions. Additionally, through its relationship with sister services, USARAF has developed a robust ability to work in a joint environment."
McKelvy said USARAF's minimalist approach to mission completion may be the wave of the future for U.S. Army commands of the future.
"USARAF is accomplishing things in Africa that the Army would have said wasn't possible 10 years ago. At CALL, we are aggressively trying to capture as much of the USARAF's approach to working in a vast continent as we can, so that we can illuminate and share it with the larger Army audience," he said.
Lessons learned, lives saved
Once the information is captured and collected, CALL creates information products that Soldiers of all ranks can use.
"We collect and learn what units are doing to be efficient and in some cases save lives. There are tactics, techniques and procedures called TTPs that units follow or discover during missions. Specific TTPs are part of mission command,with CALL capturing TTPs and passing them on to units that can benefit from the experience of others. As a result, we can help commands become more efficient, but in some cases, save lives," McKelvy said.
"The lessons learned services provided by CALL can be used by all Soldiers. We roll that into what the staff does to create constant improvement.
McKelvy points out that counter improvised explosive device training takes place through USARAF.
"We can help partner nation military with what we have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, one of the many lessons we can pass on is dealing with roadside bombs known as IEDdevices. USARAF has assisted some of its African partner nations to prepare for deployments in neighboring nations," McKelvy said.
(This is the first of a series of articles to highlight U.S. Army Africa Liaison Officers and their areas of responsibility.)