By Mr. Rick Scavetta (IMCOM)June 24, 2010
VICENZA, Italy - As Angolan women and children waited in a military hospital triage area during exercise Kwanza 2010, a U.S. Army Africa officer took note.
Maj. George K. Allen, Jr., was one of four international observers at the weeklong exercise, conducted in early June in Cabo Ledo, Angola. The exercise was held by the Central African Multinational Force in order to validate the unit.
Known as FOMAC, the force is one of five brigade-size elements that make up the African Union's African Standby Force. The FOMAC is built around forces from the Economic Community of Central African States (French acronym CEEAC). Troops who took part in the exercise came from Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe and Chad.
Incorporating a medical mission to offer humanitarian assistance during the exercise exemplifies FOMAC's progressive level of planning and coordination, Allen said. "It shows that Africans are ready to help Africans," Allen said. "They had a multi-national staff of military medics representing several central African countries - all working together to help local people. That's impressive."
Allen along with Lt. Jonathan Goerk, of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, were among a group of observers that included Maj. Gen. Samaila Iliya from the African Union. As the U.S. military representatives, the American observers were interested in how the force is organized, its logistical and signal capabilities and how FOMAC plans and conducts operations.
"We were there to observe and to learn from the countries within the FOMAC," Goerk said. "We were grateful for the opportunity to attend."
The role of the U.S. participants was to observe the event and assess how the United States can best engage with CEEAC and its member states to enhance regional peace and security capacity, including maritime security, disaster response, humanitarian relief operations, and peacekeeping missions. During the exercise, the multi-national force faced a "real-world" exercise scenario based on events and experiences gained in previous African crisis situations. That meant the primary focus was establishing security and offering care to local people.
Amphibious forces landed at a beach in rib boats from ships just off the coast. Paratroopers leapt from a Cameroonian C-130 transport plane. Medics set up two field hospitals, where local Angolans received care that included pediatric visits, women's health checks, dentistry and minor surgery.
"They had naval, air and ground forces working with police, civilian components and nongovernmental organizations - all whom worked together to create positive effects," Allen said. "FOMAC showed that it has the ability to promote security in central Africa."