By Sgt. Vincent Fusco, Dir. of Public Affairs & CommunicationsJuly 12, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 5, 2010) -- Hundreds of years ago, the Great Wall of China served as an impenetrable border against invading forces. However, in today's world, most countries are surrounded by much weaker or nonexistent forms of border security.
To curb the proliferation of violence and smuggling amongst unstable nations, the U.S. Army has lent support and guidance to countries wanting to strengthen their borders. One of its own emissaries, Lt. Col. Steven Oluic, the assistant dean for strategy and policy at West Point, visited leadership in Algeria and Mauritania to discuss those matters.
He last served as a border control consultant from July 2008-09, when he served as the borders staff officer for the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq. It was there when he started working with William Hitchcock, a former Marine currently serving as the assistant chief patrol agent on the New Orleans sector border patrol, on the task of strengthening Iraq's borders.
Oluic was responsible for developing power and competence within the Iraqi ministries of defense and interior A,A- the latter of which included the department of border enforcement and ports of entry directorate. He also oversaw the United States and NATO funding for infrastructure development and training, and was part of a collective agency effort in developing leadership within those areas.
Leadership within the United States African Command asked Oluic earlier this year if he was willing to lend his assistance in Mauritania and Algeria. He agreed and then partnered again with Hitchcock to bring their lessons learned from Iraq to Africa.
For about two-and-a-half weeks, Oluic and Hitchcock gave presentations and held discussion groups on border control and border operations. They presented their successes in Iraq, advised the leadership on how that success can apply to their countries and bring feedback to AFRICOM.
"Hopefully, they'll present some unique problems and challenges they have, and we'll propose some of the things we do," Oluic said in an interview before his trip.
Although Iraq and Algeria are hundreds of miles apart, they have similar issues in border security, Oluic said. For instance, both countries have a frontier-like physical geography in some areas, which can make it difficult to mark and control borders.
Also, Algeria and Mauritania lie in a vast region where drugs and contraband are trafficked regularly. In Iraq, Oluic worked with local governments to try and break the vicious cycles of corruption by identifying how illegal goods entered and exited the country through weaknesses in border enforcement.
Because Algeria and Mauritania share a border, Oluic believes that border security is strongest when both countries work together to stop illegal trade.
"A border has two sides," Oluic said. "The discussion of inter-operation between the two countries and controlling the border is one of the aspects of it (the visit)."
When his visit was done, he brought back firsthand information about Algeria and Mauritania that he intended to share with the academic departments here. This information can be included in current instruction to further educate cadets on African government and policy.
AFRICOM is the newest of the combat commands established, Oluic said. There is a great deal of insights to be gained about the region from this and future military assistance visits.
"My gut feeling is that most Soldiers and officers that go into the Army in the next several years may find themselves in Africa at one time or another," Oluic said.
This and future visits to Africa will highlight intellectual resources available within the academy faculty. The interest generated can also open up the possibility of creating new international experiences for cadets here, such as Academic Individual Advanced Development trips and research projects.
"I think it makes us (faculty) very relevant," Oluic said. "It also shows the leadership outside West Point that there are assets they can draw on at the academy which is useful, competent, timely and knowledgeable on those areas."