By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army AfricaFebruary 20, 2010
As Col. Robert Kaiser watched Tanzanian People's Defense Force engineers construct a temporary bridge along the banks of flooded river, he thought of ways U.S. Army Africa could mentor and assist.
Kaiser, U.S. Army Africa's senior engineer, was in Tanzania to review planned improvements at a military training camp for Tanzanian peacekeepers. Afterward, Maj. Gen. Wynjones Matthew Kisamba, Land Forces Commander of the Tanzania People's Defense Force, brought Kaiser to Tanzania's central region where floodwaters recently washed away railways and roads.
Kisamba's troops are already working to reestablish mobility through the area. Outside Mpwapwa, the TPDF's 121st Engineer Regiment had begun work on a road, where they were building a Bailey bridge to allow the flow of economic goods, Kaiser said.
"That's pretty important for Tanzania. It is a task their military engineers can clearly accomplish," Kaiser said. "They have it well in hand."
Establishing temporary bridges is a task Kaiser has seen U.S. Army engineers undertake many time during his 22 years in uniform. U.S. Army engineers, however, use a newer bridge model. During future partnership programs, U.S. Soldiers could familiarize TDPF engineers with current U.S. Army techniques, he said.
"There are definitely things we can do to help build TPDF engineer capacity," Kaiser said. "This is not the last time they will have to deal with a flood or build bridges."
Kaiser initially went to Tanzania to view planned improvements for the camp that trains peacekeepers under the U.S. State Department-led African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program. Enhancing the capabilities of African land forces that participate in peacekeeping in the continent is key to U.S. Army Africa's mission. This often includes supporting the ACOTA initiatives that assist African militaries prior to peacekeeping deployments. A TPDF battalion currently at Msata is preparing for a peacekeeping rotation in Darfur, Sudan.
"We are working with U.S. Africa Command, the U.S. Embassy team, and our TPDF partners to help make Msata better for Tanzanian peacekeepers, to make it a top-notch place for them to train," Kaiser said.
At Msata, Kaiser discussed plans to improve living conditions for TDPF troops during their pre-deployment training. Plans are to build concrete floors for tents and bring in mobile kitchens. Future plans include better office space and quarters for staff, Kaiser said.
Meanwhile, Tanzania is still recovering from massive flooding following heavy rains in late-December and early January.
During a Jan. 27 meeting with Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa, Kisamba discussed how his forces are responsible for repairing flood-damaged roads and rails. Garrett immediately directed Kaiser to deploy to the affected region to provide an expert assessment. Kaiser identified several possible avenues where the U.S. Army could provide assistance, including mapping out river flows to help prevent or mitigate future floods.
"It's important that our command has a clear understanding of what our Tanzanian partners are facing as they work to rebuild following recent flooding," Garrett said. "We are optimistic that Tanzania will be able to link this flood recovery effort with infrastructure improvement and commercial development to achieve a long-term positive outcome."