Air Forces Africa senior leader’s meet in Mali and Senegal

Air Forces Africa senior leaders met recently in Mali and Senegal to discuss improving air domain capacity and building airman skill sets and for African air forces.
Brigadier General Mike Callan, Air Forces Africa vice commander, spent the week visiting with key leaders and touring facilities for a first-hand look at the capabilities of the two nations’ air forces.
“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.”
Forces in both of these West African nations perform a variety of military operations, ranging from support to peacekeeping operations to internal border defence to humanitarian assistance. Air mobility is a necessary component if they are to execute these missions successfully, according to U.S. ambassador to Mali Gillian Milovanovic.
“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.

“We want to execute a smart plan that will lead to real capacity rather than putting a band-aid on a short-term problem.”

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.

“Ninety-five percent of our soldiers were trained by the US, and we’ve engaged with you in exercises like Flintlock, Joint Planning and Assessment Teams, and special bilateral training. We’re very satisfied with this training, but we are always looking to improve and hope to have opportunities for advanced training in the future.”

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.

“More engagement and discussion will allow us to build a better common operating picture in combating terrorism at a worldwide level.” During his visit, Callan toured the facilities of the 33rd Parachute Regiment – a unit that carries out operations using tactical vehicles and communication equipment provided by the Department of Defense and the US Department of State.

Pic: Mali Air Force hanger