VICENZA, Italy - Gen. William "Kip" Ward, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, said he knows that should an emergency arise on the African continent, Soldiers from U.S. Army Africa are ready to support a joint task force with command oversight.

During a two-day visit to U.S. Army Africa headquarters in northern Italy, Ward met senior leaders and Soldiers at Caserma Ederle and visited the Italian-led Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units. At nearby Longare, Ward met with troops who set up and mobile maintain a command center.

"Should the need arise for a joint task force to oversee operations in Africa, U.S. Army Africa is prepared to take a lead role in command and control," Ward said.

Ward arrived May 4, meeting with Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa. Garrett led a roundtable discussion on current operations, to include the role of Army noncommissioned officers supporting mentorship missions in Africa.

"U.S. Army Africa is well on it's was to becoming the premier headquarters to oversee American Soldiers as they make a positive difference in people's lives in Africa," Ward said.

As the Army component to U.S. Africa Command, the Vicenza, Italy-based headquarters is now an integral part of how the military supports partnerships in Africa, Ward said. Since December, U.S. Army Africa has undertaken a variety of assignments in support of U.S. Africa Command.

In Rwanda, U.S. Army NCOs currently work alongside troops from the United Kingdom mentoring Rwandan soldiers. In Liberia, more than a dozen Army NCOs support the Liberia Security Sector Reform, a U.S. State Department-led effort to help rebuild the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Many of the U.S. military missions in Africa are led by Army NCOs - a fact Ward recognized is even more significant as the U.S. Army celebrates the Year of the NCO in 2009.

"There's no finer example than our NCOs," Ward said.

Other mentorship missions include logistics programs in Botswana, Uganda and Rwanda. A U.S. Army Africa officer is underway with the African Partnership Station, a U.S. Navy mission to countries in West Africa. U.S. Army Soldiers are also part of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, undertaking civil affairs mission and partnering with militaries in East Africa to build leadership capacity.

During extensive travel across the continent, Ward has the opportunity to meet leaders from African nations - but also see people who benefit from interaction with the U.S. military's programs, he said.

"Each instance there is a sincere appreciation for what we are doing, partnering for a better future," Ward said.