Abuja, Nigeria - U.S. Army Africa teamed up with Armed Forces Nigeria to begin plans and preparations for 2018's African Land Forces Summit here, Oct. 2-6.
Armed Forces Nigeria will host the ALFS's 6th iteration in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, in Spring 2018. ALFS brings together land forces chiefs from all across the continent. The summit gives the chiefs an opportunity to discuss and develop solutions for improving regional security and stability in their home country.
"We take conferences seriously. We want to be good hosts," said AFN's Director of Training, Brig. Gen. Alli Keffi. "We are going to give it our very best, we will pull out all the stops."
USARAF personnel sometimes refer to the ALFS as USARAF's 'Superbowl' or the unit's largest event of the year. The summit gives U.S. Army Africa an opportunity to work closely with the host country, directly enhancing a bi-lateral partnership.
"We are off to a great start. Our Nigerian partners have been outstanding hosts and you can sense their eagerness," said ALFS's lead planner, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Hector Montemayor. "If this planning event is any indication of how the summit will go, then we are in great hands."
U.S. Army Africa's ALFS planning team in Abuja included the lead planner, deputy, protocol, security, contracting, public affairs, communications and senior enlisted officers. Each element met their AFN counterpart to demonstrate partnership and work on details for an event estimated to host approximately 400 persons.
"Planning an event of this magnitude takes hours and hours with multiple experts in their field. We meet every week and visit the host country at least four times before execution. We meet our host-nation counterparts and get their input until we come up with a mutual decision," said Mr. Bert Gillott, U.S. Army Africa protocol officer. "Part of our responsibility is to go over every minute detail to ensure nothing is left to chance."
"There are many components in the planning process. Every country attending deserves proper protocol," Gillott said. "Flags and flag poles, inviting the band, identifying an emcee, gift exchange, table cards, table and chair setup, and the list goes on."
The USARAF ALFS planning team also met with AFN's 176th Guards Battalion, responsible for the ALFS military demonstration. The demonstration gives AFN an opportunity to showcase their capabilities and skills in front of an international audience. AFN's demonstration may include air-assault repelling and 'fast-roping' from rotary aircraft as well as a motorcycle battalion in motion.
"We are still deciding on exactly how we are going proceed but I promise, it will be the best demonstration yet," said Lt. Col. Husaini Toro, 176th Guards Battalion commander, referring to previous ALFSs.
The ALFS planning team also visited Abuja's airport, hospitals and conference centers to determine the best locations to support Africa's largest land-based military conference.
The initial planning event concluded with a combined AFN and USARAF brief to the Director of AFN's Resource Center, Brig. Gen. O.N. Ugo.
"We must put in our best to ensure success, " Ugo said. "We must continue to talk to each other. We must continue to plan."
The planning team will visit Nigeria two more times to confirm mutual decisions with their host-country counterparts before the summit commences next year.