By John OhabJanuary 29, 2009
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army Southern European Task Force officially has assumed its new role as the Army component for U.S. Africa Command, and has launched an effort to build and strengthen relationships with African army organizations and national and international partners.
Maj. Gen. William "Burke" Garrett III, the commander of SETAF, U.S. Army Africa, spoke with online journalists and bloggers yesterday about SETAF's expanded role in promoting security and stability in Africa.
"Our transformation symbolizes America's enduring commitment to Africa," Garrett said during a Defense Department bloggers roundtable. "As U.S. Army Africa, we are America's premier Army team dedicated to achieving positive change on the continent."
For more than 50 years, SETAF has deployed throughout Europe, Southwest Asia and Africa, providing command and control for contingency operations, crisis response, disaster relief and humanitarian missions. Since the 1990s, SETAF has worked with African nations to conduct military training and provide humanitarian relief in countries such as Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda, Congo and the former Zaire.
In the coming years, SETAF, operating as U.S. Army Africa, will continue to grow and build capacity to meet the requirements needed to coordinate all U.S. Army activities in Africa.
"Instead of simply responding to crises, we will seek out opportunities to strengthen the capacity of African land forces and their institutions, so they can prevent conflicts and contribute to peace," Garrett said.
Garrett said he will spend 50 percent of his time stationed in Africa along with about 600 Army personnel engaged across the continent. U.S. Army Africa will use all aspects of the Army, including the Guard and Reserve, which offer important "niche capabilities" such as civil-affairs coordination and well-drilling units.
Because of the enormous cultural diversity across African nations, U.S. Army Africa has teamed with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to provide Soldiers with the requisite skills and cultural awareness to work effectively with African partners.
Garrett described U.S. Army Africa as a 21st-century organization focused on small units, effective cooperation programs and sustained security engagement.
"[U.S. Army Africa] is not an episodic, flash in the pan, noncombative evacuation operation," Garrett said. "It's sustained day-to-day engagement with our African partners. That's never been done in Africa."
Currently, U.S. Army Africa leads a number of efforts focused on military education in Rwanda, Liberia, Ethiopia and Ghana. The National Guard heads the State Partnership Program, which links U.S. states with African nations to promote regional stability and civil-military relationships. In the future, U.S. Army Africa seeks to build lasting relationships with nongovernmental organizations and businesses operating in Africa.
U.S. Army Africa's mission to provide a sustained security engagement marks a departure from the United States' traditional approach to promoting peace and stability in Africa. Garrett considers this to be "America's acknowledgement that Africa is rising in strategic importance."
"We share a bond of humanity with their people," he said. "And, from our point of view, by investing in that common humanity, we can advance our common security."
(John Ohab holds a doctorate in neuroscience and works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)