SOUTH AFRICA (Feb. 3, 2014) -- In support of its mission to enable full spectrum operations while conducting sustained security engagements with African land forces, the training U.S. Army Africa is providing to different African nations is helping them secure their own borders as well as their own regions.
Maj. Albert Conley III, U.S. Army Africa's Counter-Terrorism desk officer for International Military Engagements, said that by U.S. Army Africa, known as USARAF, helping Africans solve African problems the U.S. doesn't need to get involved and whatever American interests are in that region or country will, as a secondary effect, be secure because USARAF is helping them with internal and external security.
"If Africans are solving African problems, that means the U.S. government won't need to use the United States Army to solve African problems," Conley said. "For example, by having a conglomerate of nations in the African Union going into Somalia to help fix that nation's problems means that American servicemen don't have to go into Somalia to help fix that problem."
USARAF is currently partnering with the French government to train and equip in Guinea, and will be in Chad and Malawi in February, to train more than 4,000 African troops for peace enforcement missions in Mali and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We are ready to begin training in Chad for about 1,300 soldiers -- an 850 man battalion, plus another 450 man battalion," said Col. John Ruffing, USARAF Security Cooperation director. "While we are not partnering with the government of France, we are partnering with a private French security firm that the government of Chad contracted. They are providing some of the training and we are providing some of the training."
USARAF is planning more training and equipping iterations -- probably a total of about 15, between now and the end of the fiscal year, with various countries on the African continent.
"We are looking at partnering with some of our non-traditional partners as well and would like to partner with an African nation to train other countries," Ruffing said. "We'd also like to work with an international, non-traditional partner to train a third-party African nation in a particular skill set, as well as provide us with training because we don't know how to operate in that environment very well, and are learning each and every time we put people on the continent," he said.
USARAF wasn't training and equipping a lot of African nations until about a year-and-a-half ago.
"A lot of this is coming on-line now with the Regionally Aligned Forces," Ruffing said. "An example would be how the RAF worked during Shared Accord 13. It was a very sophisticated exercise where we did air field seizure, forcible entry operations, an amphibious assault and the environment was very difficult with high sea states, low visibility, high winds and we were able to conduct this operation through mission command in a C-130 where you had a South African general officer and a U.S. colonel sitting side-by-side with the South African general making decisions to conduct this operation.
"There were two forces -- the U.S. and South Africa -- conducting this event. Not only conventional forces were involved, but there were Special Forces from the U.S. and South Africa involved in this exercise," he continued.
Because of lessons learned from that Shared Accord 13, or SA 13, the impact was seen almost immediately.
"I believe the training received during SA 13 helped 1/18th Infantry when they were sent to South Sudan to reinforce the U.S. Embassy there as part of the East Africa Response Force operations," Ruffing said. "Had that force just been sitting at a location just doing training and not understanding the environment or working with a foreign military, it might have been a little more difficult. But because they were able to work in the environment with South Africa during Shared Accord, I think that helped them and prepared them for that operation in South Sudan."
Conley offered additional examples.
"We trained in Niger, and then Niger went into Mali," Conley said. "We are now working with the French to actually get the assessment of that since we're not working with them in Mali. So, now the French get to see this unit we trained and equipped to go in and fight in Mali and secure the area. The French are actually giving us the assessment and evaluation of that unit, and then whatever lessons learned, we will implement that in the next training mission."
Another example and perhaps a better example, Conley said, is from training in east Africa.
"The U.S. government has been training in Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti and Burundi to go in to conduct peace keeping missions in Somalia. For the longest time they were restricted to the city of Mogadishu," Conley said. "Because of all the training we've been doing with them, building up the different units with reconnaissance capabilities so they can push out of Mogadishu and push out into the countryside, while pushing the terrorist group El Shabaab out speaks to great success. So I don't need to be on the ground to see the success of that -- it's quite evident."