“It’s important for us to hear directly from the host nation what their priorities are as we work to develop a sustained engagement strategy,” Callan said. “While there may be tactical differences in the assistance desired in each nation, the overall themes are the same – increasing capacity in the air domain and developing a corps of professional officers and NCOs.”
“Air capability plays an important role in moving people and forces and projecting security here,” Milovanovic said. “Security governs everything here, so we have to be flexible and realistic in the kinds of capabilities we invest in.”
Topping the list of theater security cooperation objectives between Mali and US forces are enhanced aircraft maintenance and logistics systems, increased interoperability with US and other regional partners, and further professionalizing of their defence forces.
“We are working with the Mali Ministry of Defence on a 10-year plan,” said Lieutenant Colonel Marshall Mantiply, defence attache at the US Embassy in Mali.
Malian defence leaders agree, noting that a long-term strategy that improves their capability will benefit other nations in the region and around the world. “These vehicles give us the capability for doing pursuit actions and convoy escorts,” said Lieutenant Colonel Louis Somboro, deputy commander.
Similarly, in Senegal US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat described the small but capable defense forces as a “shining example of fellow professionals.”
In addition to meeting with the Air Force chief of staff and touring operations and maintenance facilities, Callan and Air Forces Africa Command Chief Master Sergeant Steven Scott served as guest speakers at the graduation ceremony of the first class of instructors for the Senegalese NCO academy.
Since its inception in 1971, the academy has trained more than 2100 NCOs, and now has produced the first 12 instructors trained in-house. In his comments, Scott lauded the new instructors for being “out front, leading and shaping the future of your enlisted corps.” He noted that while the new instructors will face challenges, they will also reap great rewards.
Currently, many officers and NCOs attend training courses ranging from pilot training, to core skill training, to professional military education in other African and European nations as well as the US
“We want to depend less on training and resources from other nations,” said Major Elhadji Diene, a recent graduate of US Air Force Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. “There is a need for us to develop the capability to do it by ourselves, for ourselves.”
US Air Forces Africa is the air component of US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
“Our common framework is combating terrorism,” said General Poudiougou, general chief of staff of the Mali Air Force.
Pic: Mali Air Force hanger