By Sgt. Terysa M. King, U.S. Army Africa Public AffairsDecember 10, 2013
As the newest and smallest Army Service Component Command, U.S. Army Africa doesn't have a tremendous amount of assigned resources. With assistance from liaison officers, USARAF can maximize and multiply its resources by providing a better understanding of their respective unit's capabilities and how USARAF can use those resources.
USARAF's commitment to mutual security interests in Africa is achieved by maintaining strong partnerships with Soldiers and civilians from different organizations around the world, and USARAF LNOs are essential to integrating and synchronizing USARAF operations with those of other organizations.
Capt. Peter Blades and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Elsmore, a typical two-person LNO team of an Army officer and a noncommissioned officer, keep the flow of information open between USARAF and Second Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Regionally Aligned Forces) in Fort Riley, Kan.
According to Blades, the RAF is the main source of manpower used to train African partner armies.
"We provide USARAF a brigade to pull from to accomplish any mission. 2/1 is the go to unit when a USARAF mission requires a non-organic sourced unit. The missions that 2/1 conducts range in all different varieties from soldier skill training to train and equip," Blades, an Almond, N.Y. native, said.
Normal days for USARAF personnel start between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., but for these LNOs, their work begins when their counterparts at Fort Riley, Kan. report to work.
"The flow of information pretty much starts around 2 p.m. because that's 7 a.m. at Fort Riley. Our days go to 8 p.m. sometimes so we can have that real-time flow of information, instead of waiting for emails due to the time difference," Elsmore, a Boonton, N.J. native, said.
Blades said it's important for information to pass quickly and efficiently due to the changing nature of events in Africa and the large time gap between the two units to react to changes.
"We're learning how to work on a continent that is made up of 54 different countries to ensure the training we do provide and the way we go about it is the correct way. It makes it difficult to make sure information is passed quickly because of daily changes," Blades said. "We also have to find the balance between what USARAF and U.S. Army Forces Command want while still ensuring the host nation has a say in what goes on."
Elsmore said the challenge with quick and accurate information flow is learning the process involved between different organizations to successfully execute missions in Africa.
"You have a lot of different parties, like the Department of State, USARAF, U.S. Africa Command, embassies, country teams and FORSCOM. With events constantly changing, we have to search for the answers and make sure we meet certain standards and timelines," Elsmore said.
Along with ensuring information between USARAF and the RAF is received in a timely manner, Blades and Elsmore said they establish positive working relationships by meeting face-to-face with their USARAF counterparts.
"Being a LNO for USARAF gives our counterparts a face that somebody can go to and interact with. We attempt to provide the best way to facilitate conversation and enhance information sharing. It really goes into the concept that the Army is a people system," Blades said.