JINJA, Uganda -- Speaking to military officers from five African nations recently, Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, echoed messages delivered by President Barrack Obama in Ghana a few weeks ago.

"President Obama, speaking of a vision for a stronger African future said, 'America has a responsibility to work with you as a partner to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity,'" Garrett said. The general added, "Our role is to assist our African partners in their efforts to build enduring capacity to prevent or mitigate conflict and help address other security challenges."

Garrett, commander of U.S. Army Africa, was visiting the Kimaka Senior Command and Staff College in Jinja as part of his first trip to Uganda.

Highlighting the Obama administration's commitment to making Africa a priority in U.S. foreign policy, Garrett mentioned that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would begin a seven-nation trip to Africa next week. "This will be the earliest in any U.S. administration that both the President and the Secretary of State have visited Africa," Garrett said.

When asked for a specific example of how security capacity can be strengthened on a regional basis, Garrett cited an upcoming multinational exercise in eastern Africa.

"In several months, military forces from six nations and a wide range of non-military organizations will gather in Uganda for exercise 'Natural Fire,'" Garrett said. Natural Fire will be the largest multinational exercise conducted in Africa in 2009. Military members from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the U.S. will work to improve interoperability and also develop procedures to provide assistance during humanitarian emergencies like pandemic influenza.

"Our effort to deepen our understanding of the challenges that each of us face will improve our ability to address these challenges together," the general said.

Following his presentation at the staff college, Garrett and Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, a spokesperson for the Ugandan Peoples' Defense Force, met with seven news media organizations documenting his visit to answer their questions. One media question involved a perceived permanent military base coming to Entebbe, Uganda as part of Natural Fire.

"Natural Fire is a regularly scheduled exercise," said Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, a spokesperson for the Ugandan Peoples' Defense Force. "Once the two-week exercise is complete, the temporary headquarters and all participants will return to their countries."

The staff college commandant, Brig. Gen. Clovis Kalyebara, thanked Garrett for his detailed presentation about U.S. Army Africa's mission and his focus on developing partnerships. "We are honored to have such a distinguished commander with us today. We look forward to working together with our American friends to help prepare military leaders for increased responsibilities in their countries."