For the second time ever, the US Air Force’s 621st Contingency Response Wing (CRW) hosted the African Partnership Flight (APF) program at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey..
Approximately 55 military representatives from Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia, attended the event between 16 and 20 April.
“Although we come together from different countries, speak different languages, have different traditions, we also have much in common,” said Lt. Col. Angela Polsinelli, 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron (MSAS) commander. “We share a duty to our countries of pride and professionalism in our service and a desire for a safer, better world.”
APF is a one-week, military-to-military, multilateral and regional engagement event hosted by the 818 MSAS. Beginning with APF Ghana in 2012, this event marks the 14th APF overall and the third conducted in 2018.
The program is sponsored and developed by U.S. Air Forces Africa and is the premier security cooperation program which partners U.S. and African personnel to improve professional military aviation knowledge, skills and cooperation. The engagement aims to improve the readiness of participating nations’ personnel and consists of classroom instruction, briefings and facility tours of units from the 621 CRW, 87th Air Base Wing and 305th Air Mobility Wing, focused on the full cycle of deployment operations for a tactical airlift unit.
“APF is a meeting where we can share information and knowledge so we can look forward to one day operating together,” said Maj. Mario Tjimbungu, Angola air force airman. “For me, it’s important because as we can see the world is getting smaller and we are now closer to each other. So if we get to know each other better, in the future we can operate together with no problems.”
According to Brig. Gen. William Knight, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center vice commander, the U.S. has also benefited from partnerships such as the ones being forged through APF.
“Just across the river is Philadelphia, where nations partnered with us so that we can gain our independence,” Knight said. “Without those partnerships, I think most historians would say it’s doubtful that our nation would have been able to gain its independence.”
According to Lt. Col. Justin Hodge, international affairs operations branch chief assigned to U. S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the APF is a chance to develop mutual understanding and strengthen relations between the participants.
“The way that these multilateral help to strengthen partnerships is really just breaking bread with our counterparts,” Hodges said. “Having the opportunities to sit down and get to know people really strengthens that bond.”
Hodge also stressed the importance of engagements such as APF.
“From a strategic level, it enables us to build those regional alliances and regional cooperation capabilities between each of the nations,” he said. “The U.S. really relies on our partnerships to be able to tackle problems with issues that arise within [Africa].”
APF is one of many engagements the MSAS unit participates in throughout the year in Africa. The MSAS conducts both building partnership and building partnership capacity operations for partner nations to increase their air mobility enterprise in a specific range of skill sets tailored for engagement with a specific partner nation, the US military said.
MSAS core capabilities include command and control, air operations, aerial port, and aircraft maintenance and has more than 70 technical experts, many with previous air advisor experience, representing nearly 35 Air Force specialties.
“I’m proud to lead a unit of dedicated air advisors in the 818 MSAS,” Polsinelli said. “Thank you for your commitment to accomplish these goals. I’m confident that we have a bright future working together [with partner nations].”
The 621st CRW is highly-specialized to train and rapidly deploy personnel to open airfields and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations. From wartime tasks to disaster relief, the 621st extends Air Mobility Command’s reach deploying people and equipment around the globe.