Africom steps up West African agenda

US Africa Command has stepped up its activities in west Africa a gear, with its Africa Partnership Station (APS) moving to Ghana after a successful stop in Senegal.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has commended the peace process in Sierra Leone and urged the world community to do more there.   
Africom reports that the Austin-class amphibious transport dock USS Nashville (LPD 13) is in port at Sekondi, Ghana, on the second stop of its five-month deployment in support of the APS.
APS is an international initiative, led by US Naval Forces Africa that aims to work cooperatively with US, European and African partners to enhance maritime safety and security.
To conduct its programs, APS utilises an international team of expert trainers in a variety of military capacities and a handful of civilian fields such as fisheries management, port security and meteorology.

Familiarisation events are conducted as requested by partner countries. “In Ghana, that means traditional military training, such as engineering and small boat handling, plus a handful of specialty areas,” Africom says in a news report posted on its home page.  
“This initiative has been built at the request of African partners, and we execute it side-by-side with an embarked team of officers and civilian specialists from 20 different countries,” said Captain Cindy Thebaud, Africa Partnership Station Nashville commander. “This fact should send a clear message. The responsibility of maritime security truly is a global effort.”

Thebaud leads an international staff consisting of naval officers from 18 countries on four different continents, including two officers from the Ghanaian navy. The international staff is in addition to the Nashville’s crew, commanded by Captain Tushar Tembe.

During their port visit to Ghana, APS crew members will conduct seminars, workshops and hands-on training with Ghanaian sailors, covering topics such as port security planning, small boat maintenance, medical training, search and rescue training, and oceanographic methods.
Additionally, APS will conduct community relations projects in each of the countries visited. All of the activities are based on specific requests from Ghanaian officials. “We see APS as a promising U.S. Navy-led initiative that, along with our international partners, will create the foundation for future regional cooperation in meeting our common maritime concerns,” said Lieutenant Commander James Agambire, Ghana Navy.
Marines ashore
Marine Forces Africa meanwhile reports that more than 30 officers and civilians from 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have become the first graduates of a new logistics course hosted by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra.
The two-week Partnership for Integrated Logistics Operations and Tactics (PILOT) course, a joint Canadian Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and US Africa Command (AFRICOM) venture, focused on the planning, coordination and conduct of logistics in peace support operations.

The KAIPTC is one of three peacekeeping training centres of excellence in the ECOWAS region and focuses on operational level education for field grade officers.

In an address to the graduates Marine Brigadier General Tracy L Garrett, commander of US Marine Corps Forces Africa (MFA) highlighted the importance of civilian and military logisticians integrated efforts to achieve success in today’s complex peace support operation planning.

Marine Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Seipt, MFA assistant chief of staff for logistics, has been working with KAIPTC, US Army Africa and U.S. AFRICOM for more than a year to bring the PILOT program together.

He said this first iteration of the course focused on a mixture of lectures, practical application exercise, and group discussions to encourage the development of knowledge and skills among participants.
“[The PILOT course] is a component of our overall strategy to improve the logistics capacity our African partner nations,” said Seipt. “The overarching theme is that by MFA partnering with US Army Africa, KAIPTC and other international partners, AFRICOM is better able to work with our African partner nations as they develop and strengthen their logistical capacities.”

Marine Lieutenant Colonel Jerome A.M. Jackson, Africom’s liaison officer to the KAIPTC and PILOT course director, said that the PILOT course comes from a network of partnerships between the KAIPTC, Africom and the Canadian government, which provided substantial funding for course. Marines and soldiers worked in concert with representatives from the region to make the PILOT course into a reality.
“The goal is to create a multi-national officer core with an awareness and preparedness to be able to assume logistical staff roles in a United Nations or African Union peacekeeping mission,” Seipt said.

According to Jackson, the course focused on a train-the-trainer concept, and upon completion of the course, officers and civilians would be able to return to their respective organizations to share the information in order to enhance the logistics support capacity of the ECOWAS Standby Force.

Training Special Forces in Senegal
Prior to leaving Senegal the APS Marine Advisor Team also trained with the Senegalese Special Forces in what is advertised as a partnership that hopes to build a continuous learning environment and to foster international relations.
“It was a good experience for us, for my soldiers,” said Major Souleymane Kande, coordinator, Senegalese Special Forces. “They took this opportunity to improve their experience by practicing the knowledge that they had before this exercise.”

The Marines built on lessons learned from previous engagements. Seminars encompassed non-lethal tactics, combat lifesavers skills, patrolling, intelligence, marksmanship, and military and Marine Corps martial arts.

The courses were greatly appreciated by the Senegalese soldiers, Marine Forces Africa add.
“They can’t eliminate one course because they all are important,” said Seaman Jean Diassy, Senegalese Special Forces. “One class will complete the other. So if you don’t use it for today, maybe tomorrow you need it for another mission, so all the classes are good.”

The marksmanship course, in particular, made an immediate impression on the soldiers, providing them with a hands-on opportunity to practice proper form and target shooting. Practical application is a main component of most of the seminars, which allows students to practice and hone techniques and tactics under the guidance of trainers.

Many of these soldiers have already seen combat in the southern region of their country, in the Congo or the Ivory Coast, according to Lieutenant Dame Ka, platoon leader, Senegalese Special Forces.

Wars have evolved from fighting on a battlefield to fighting insurgents in urban terrain. This ability to effectively fight in this new environment is one that was voiced during the exchange.
“Nowadays we are involved in urban combat,” said Sergeant Abdoulaye Ndiaye, Senegalese Special Forces. “Nowadays all the combat is happening in big cities, so we need to build ourselves to succeed in missions in the cities.”

At the conclusion of the seminars approximately 150 soldiers received certificates of completion (pictured).

Sierra Leone
Separately, US Ambassador Susan Rice, a close friend of US President Barack Obama, has applauded progress by the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone in building a durable peace in the once war-torn West African nation.
“We`ve come a long way in the United Nations` ability to help countries and regions resolve, recover from and rebuild after conflict,” Rice added, while also commending the Sierra Leonean government for confronting corruption, enhancing respect for human rights and strengthening the rule of law.

Rice praised Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma for taking steps to confront corruption, enhance respect for human rights, and strengthen the rule of law. She also cited the importance of the Peacebuilding Commission in supporting the government`s reform efforts, as well as UN Radio, which helped connect Sierra Leoneans and inform them about elections, women`s rights, health concerns and other issues.
“The type of office that UNIPSIL [UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone] represents is a new instrument for the United Nations to assist post-conflict countries as they make the critical transition from insecurity and violence to lasting peace,” Rice said. “We will need to follow its progress … to ensure that as member states we give the necessary support to help its efforts succeed.”

Rice urged nations to join the United States in supporting the UNIPSIL mission. She cited concerns that youth unemployment, poverty and illicit drugs threaten to unravel progress in the country, which remains among the poorest in the world, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
“Sierra Leone reminds us not only of the difficulties of post-conflict transitions but also of the promise of the United Nations and the broader international community to assist a country and its people to build a better future,” Rice said.