Exercise Natural Fire ends with strong emphasis on partnership and cooperation

Major General William B. Garrett III, US Army Africa commanding general, declared Exercise Natural Fire 10 a success at the exercise’s closing ceremony in Entebbe, Uganda.
More than 1200 soldiers and civilians from six countries came together for the 10-day exercise to practice humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“Ten days ago, I stood here and welcomed everyone to Natural Fire 10,” Garrett said.
“Since then, we came together as friends and partners, and I am absolutely amazed at what has been accomplished by all the participants.”
Led by US Army Africa, this was the largest joint and multinational exercise in the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility in 2009. The primary exercise site was a remote and austere post-conflict region of northern Uganda, just south of Sudan.

Approximately 550 US personnel and 650 troops from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States took part in Natural Fire 10, where the emphasis on the exercise was improving interoperability and building partner capacity to respond to complex humanitarian emergencies. The exercise included a table-top exercise, humanitarian and civic assistance projects, and a field training exercise.

During the table top exercise, military and civic leaders from the five partner nations came together in Kampala and Entebbe to work through a simulated natural disaster, a pandemic flu outbreak in Uganda, and other humanitarian crises requiring regional and international support.
“This is a good forum to share our national plans and harmonize our actions,” said Dr. Winyi Kaboyo, assistant commissioner to the Uganda Ministry of Health and secretary to the Uganda National Task Force for Influenza.

“We can then move together to combat whatever disaster falls within our region.”
“The crucial point, which was very exciting, was bringing together the military to work with civil authorities,” said Kaboyo. “We have had interactions in the past, during outbreaks like Cholera and Ebola, but they were confined to addressing public health.”

In Kitgum, US military medical professionals worked side-by-side with their African partner nations to provide medical and dental care to more than 11 000 Uganda citizens at four clinics and hospitals in the surrounding communities. In addition, US Navy Seabees completed construction projects on two schools and a hospital.

During the medical portion, a US Army Reserve nurse had the opportunity to deliver and name two Ugandan babies. “It’s pretty amazing there’s a little one out here that I named and that I helped bring into this world,” said 1st Lieutenant Victoria Lynn Watson, 7231st Medical Support Unit, Lubbock, Texas.

Also in Kitgum, US Marines and soldiers from the partner nations went through a challenging field training exercise, which focused on skills needed during peacekeeping operations, where they learned from each other’s vast experience.

“The training is good because you get a better understanding of the Americans and the neighboring countries,” said Senior Private Nixon M’meyi Obwaso, from Kenya.

According to Garrett, each and every person participating in the exercise contributed to its success, but the greater accomplishment is the spirit of cooperation, partnership and friendship that developed during the exercise.
“US Army Africa’s commitment to our East African partners does not end with this closing ceremony,” Garrett said. “This is not the conclusion, but rather the continuation of what I hope is a long and enduring relationship.”