Vicenza, ITALY – U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) hosts the first African Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Forum with 80 attendees at Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Italy, Dec. 11th-14th 2023.
The African FAO Forum is a dedicated platform for FAOs, offering opportunities for academic discussions, professional development, and collaborative workshops to foster collaboration, address unique challenges within the African FAO community, and facilitate face-to-face interactions, mentorship, and career mapping discussions.
"Foreign Area Officers play a crucial role in enhancing the people’s understanding of our mission, operating at the tactical level to bridge the gap between the [Department of] Defense and State [Department Foreign Service],” said Maj. Gen. Todd R. Wasmund, SETAF-AF commanding general. “They contribute to our mission by maintaining relationships with our African partners and reinforcing understanding of the value of our military programs in their country.”
FAOs, commissioned officers from the U.S. armed forces, are strategically trained as military diplomats with regional expertise, language proficiency, and a global presence. They serve in various capacities, including U.S. embassies and combatant command staffs, engaging across domains to foster international partnerships and advance U.S. national security interests.
“Foreign Area Officers serve in various roles, from working at SETAF-AF in the Security Cooperation Division as desk officers to providing insight to the command about the U.S. military engagement with our partner nations in Africa,” said Lt. Col. Amanda Parker, a FAO assigned to the American Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa. “Particularly in SETAF-AF, a Security Cooperation Chief would help to coordinate SETAF-AF’s activities with the partner nation’s military. There are a variety of different ways that this happens, and FAOs are critical to helping facilitate that.”
The forum featured multiple panels: FAOs in Crisis Response; Army 2030 and Multi-Domain Operations; U.S. Indo-Pacific Command priorities and their impacts on Africa; Army Activities, Operations, and Investments in Africa; and Senior FAO Insight.
FAOs organized a collaborative workshop during the forum, facilitating small-group discussions on challenges unique to the African FAO community. They categorized these challenges and assessed possible solutions within the African FAO team or if they required Department of Defense support.
The positive changes and support from leadership contribute to the continuous growth and effectiveness of FAOs in their diplomatic and security roles.