"To fail to plan is to plan to fail. You people here are the success of this summit," said Malawi Defense Forces Col. Cleveland Kachala.
Kachala opened the initial planning event for the African Land Forces Summit 2017 by welcoming planners from U.S. Army Africa and the Malawi Defense Forces in Lilongwe, Malawi, Oct. 18.
ALFS is an annual, weeklong seminar bringing together land force chiefs from across Africa for candid dialog to discuss and develop cooperative solutions to regional and trans-regional challenges and threats.
The initial planning event was held from Oct. 17-21 and brought military planners representing the MDF and USARAF together to discuss initial concepts of the summit and the support requirements necessary for a successful event.
"The idea for this particular initial planning event is for all of the planners from U.S. Army Africa to link up with their peers in the MDF and really start getting down into the details as to what's expected from each side, what we're going to bring to the table, what the MDF will bring to the table," said Lt. Col. Ed Williams, Defense Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe.
This is the first time Malawi will host the African Land Forces Summit. ALFS 2016 was hosted by the Tanzanian People's Defense Force in Arusha, Tanzania, where 37 land force chiefs attended.
"We really do this as a cohosting with U.S. Army Africa and the Malawi Defense Forces," said Williams.
"We're going to cohost this huge summit which involves the entire continent of Africa, even Europe and the United States. We really can't start planning for this too early because of the scope of this thing," said Williams.
The initial planning event is the first of several meetings that bring the planners together to work side by side.
"This is the time we're going to conceptualize and discuss the way forward. This is where we meet and discuss what's in our lane and then start painting that picture as we move forward," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Hector Montemayor, USARAF conference planner.
"There's a lot of stuff that goes into it. We have to consider the airport, the vehicles. We have to discuss the options available and how to work together to meet our goals," said Montemayor.
Planners began with a site survey of the various event locations to determine just what kinds of support would be needed for the summit.
"Everybody here has a specialty or role," said Williams. "We have to get on the same sheet of music regarding medical coverage, be on the same sheet of music for force protection. We have to get our equipment that's necessary in here. Transportation has to be planned for the summit delegates."
The final event will also provide the opportunity for many delegates to visit Malawi for the first time.
"There could be up to 45 countries that come here and this is the MDF's opportunity to showcase the country to everyone," said Montemayor.
"I believe the Malawi Defense Forces will benefit conceptually, physically and morally from this undertaking," said Kachala.
ALFS is one of the most important annual events for USARAF, said Manual Melendez, USARAF conference planner.
"Prior to that there's a lot of work that needs to happen," said Melendez.
"We have to finalize set ups, conduct dress rehearsals, do communication checks, all the little things that happen behind the curtain but is not seen when this summit is actually going on. So, our team will marry up with the MDF team about a week prior and there's some really hard work. When the dignitaries arrive for the summit everything is already set," said Melendez.
At the end of the week planners convened for a final meeting to brief their work from the week and the way ahead for the next planning event. Brig. Gen. Paul Phiri, MDF chief of training, led the final discussion and encouraged planners to keep working towards the main planning event.
"This event should be exceptional, and when I say that I mean that exceptional cannot come on its own. It requires a lot of work so lets work very hard. Continue to work together even after this week so that before we even meet again we have answers to the questions we developed this week," said Phiri.