VICENZA, Italy -- U.S. Army Africa Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, recognized a team of Soldiers from the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) for their support in numerous exercises and activities in Africa, Monday at the USARAF Headquarters building on Caserma Ederle.

The team, led by Lt. Col. Dennis Bowers, is the first of three teams that will provide USARAF with theater sustainment capabilities through the fiscal year. Each team will serve a six-month rotation and aid in establishing USARAF's internal sustainment capabilities.

In addition, the teams will also make preparations for USARAF's procurement of a 35-person team from the 79th Theater Sustainment Command -- the Army's newest theater sustainment command -- by end of the fiscal year.

The 79th TSC, located in Los Alamitos, Calif., is one of only two of its kind in the Army Reserve and currently supports units in 19 states west of the Mississippi River.

According to Harrington, procurement of a 79th TSC team would provide USARAF with the capability to, not only continue current exercises and activities, but sustain theater operations in Africa as well.

USARAF currently does not have an internal sustainment capability and until the 79th TSC team is operational it will be up to the 13th ESC teams to bridge the gap.

"You are that bridge," said Harrington.

The efforts of each team would enable the 79th TSC team to reach full operational capacity faster, said Bowers.

Bowers and his team, now preparing to return to Fort Hood, spent the past six months laying the foundation for continuous sustainment in support of USARAF and U.S. Africa Command mission objectives.

"One of our priorities were to determine what each unit does," said Bowers, a native of Pottsville, Penn. He added that after an initial "who does what" analysis of participating units, his team began work on sustainment plans to support the basic life needs, such as food, water and fuel, of Soldiers operating on the continent.

Bowers said his team recently supported exercise Judicious Response -- USAFRICOM's largest exercise -- which focused on crisis response scenarios and was held in Germany, Italy, California, and North Carolina.

Bowers' team also began planning for the upcoming exercises Shared Accord 17 and Africa Readiness Training 17, both which are scheduled to take place this summer.

Shared Accord is a joint exercise intended to strengthen U.S. and African forces' capabilities when conducting peacekeeping operations in support of United Nations and African Union mandates. This year the exercise will take place in South Africa.

Africa Readiness Training, to be held in Uganda, is a combined exercise intended to enhance trust and understanding with African partners, promote unit readiness of Regionally Allocated Forces through realistic live-fire training, and to deter future adversaries.

Bowers said even though it has been "a daunting task to establish," his time spent working with an Army service combatant command has been an eye-opening experience.

Harrington also met with the second rotation of 13th ESC Soldiers, led by Lt. Col. Joseph Evans.

"We will continue to build capacity, improve planning efforts and set the stage for the 79th TSC," said Evans.