VICENZA, Italy - U.S. Army Africa opened a weeklong Theater Army Security Cooperation Conference Aug. 23 in Vicenza, Italy.

Representatives from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Army Africa, and an array of Army commands and programs gathered for presentations by and discussions with embassy and country team personnel to coordinate Theater Security Cooperation activities over the next three years. Approximately 120 people in all are participating, said Lt. Col. Ronald Miller, acting director of Army Africa's Security Cooperation Directorate.

U.S. Army Africa Commander, Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg, addressed the opening session with a video message to attendees. "Thank you all for traveling long distances to be with us in Vicenza, Italy," said Hogg, who went on to articulate four basic goals for the conference.

"It gives us the opportunity for you all to educate each and every one of us on what you do, what your mission and what your country team agendas and goals are, and what the ambassador's goals are, for each respective country."

In a reciprocal manner, the conference allows a range of American personnel working throughout Africa to understand the role of U.S. Army Africa as an Army Service Component Command.

"You need to understand what our capabilities are and what our mission sets are," Hogg said.

He urged conference attendees to see those two elements in perspective. "To understand the institutional Army, how we interact with our higher headquarters, the Big Army: what resources we are able to bring into play, and develop those fundamental relationships that are vital for each of us to accomplish our mission," Hogg said.

The final conference goal is to lock in the fiscal year 2011 TSC plan in preparation for the annual AFRICOM-level TSC conference to be held in November.

The first two days of the conference were dedicated to a presentation of Army Africa TSC planning and country team briefs that focused on the possibilities, issues, agendas and goals of U.S. engagement with specific countries.

"Mad-minute presentations," in which attendees had 60 seconds or so to present their organizations and missions to the conference, were both effective and popular, allowing participants to identify each other for follow-up conversations throughout the event, said Mark Devlin, SCD deputy director.

These quick presentations worked like speed dating, Devlin said.

Regional breakout sessions, to consider the five main geographical regions of Africa, were scheduled for the third and fourth days. Maj. Gen. Hogg was expected to join attendees on the fourth day and be outbriefed by Army Africa SCD officials on Friday, Miller said.

"Each country rep was able to give about a 10-minute blurb about what is going on in their countries. It's great for idea sharing," Devlin said.

"I was at last year's conference, and it's really productive," said Sara Young, AFRICOM military-to-military program manager for East Africa. "It lays a good groundwork for what we do in November."

"It's good for all our people on the embassy country teams," said Andy Tarr, Army Africa's G-5 chief of the policy and strategy division. "They're usually one or two guys, so they get to meet these people, get an idea what tools they bring to bear. It's good that they can link up.

"We have representatives from AFRICOM, and components of AFRICOM. Another big constituency we've got here is Department of the Army. We have people from Training and Doctrine Command, from the Corps of Engineers, from Medical Command. All these guys represent organizations that have security cooperation programs of their own, or they have capabilities that are valuable for cooperation in Africa. They want to make sure what they're doing is in support of Army Africa and AFRICOM strategies and objectives," he said.

"We're doing a mind meld," Devlin said. "We've got the same skills sets. We now made the face-to-face contacts. Now, all of a sudden, they're colleagues, not a name on an email. And it all works."