Year in Review – AFRICOM’s top stories in 2016


Stories from 2016 show that the US military’s Africa Command (Africom) exercises demonstrated readiness, its programs and engagements nurtured partnerships, and its operations showed commitment to African partners for a safe, stable and prosperous Africa.

The year started with a visit from U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who met with then commander, U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, in Stuttgart, Germany on Jan. 4.

Also in January, nearly 100 Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa established an evacuation control center (ECC) for an exercise in Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. The exercise prepared the crisis response unit for a military assisted departure mission. The passenger terminal used hosted a real ECC in July 2014 when SPMAGTF-CR-AF assisted in the evacuation of U.S. personnel from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya, when U.S. citizens and embassy personnel traveled by ground convoy to neighboring Tunisia, before being flown to NAS Sigonella, where they were processed through the ECC before moving on to other locations.



This past year marked the fifth time for Cutlass Express, a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored multinational maritime exercise designed to increase maritime safety and security in the waters off East Africa, western Indian Ocean island nations, and in the Gulf of Aden.

In 2016 it was conducted at two operational hubs – Djibouti, Djibouti and Port Victoria, Seychelles, in conjunction with 17 nations from across the globe as well as representatives from the Eastern Africa Standby Force, the European Union Naval Force, International Maritime Organization (IMO), and Combined Task Force 150.

New JOC opens

Back at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, leaders cut the ribbon on a new state of the art Joint Operations Center during an open house event that welcomed staff and family members to visit and learn about its capabilities.

The JOC brought together the efforts and expertise of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Europe, the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Directorate of Public Works, the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Atlantic, and the U.S. Army 52nd Signal Battalion as well as AFRICOM staff to create a true state-of-the-art joint operations center.
“We’re proud to show you our new home,” said U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken, AFRICOM deputy to the commander for military operations, “our new JOC represents a great accomplishment in bringing together the best technology with the best people to help enable us to provide a more secure environment for us and our partner nations.”

Pirates captured – hostages freed!

Back on the high seas, the importance of “training like we fight,” became a real-world event.

When pirates hijacked the MT MAXIMUS in the Gulf of Guinea in mid-February, collaboration between four West African nations, with assistance from the U.S. and France, allowed the African navies to track, interdict the vessel, free 18 hostages and apprehend the pirates.
“The training and exercises, as well as the combined operations that have taken place over the years, directly contributed to the successful interception and takedown of the pirates onboard the MAXIMUS,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cdr. Todd Behney, U.S. Africa Command maritime programs officer. “The collaborative efforts that have taken place throughout the region by the Africans and their respective countries has been impressive and highly commendable.”
“The timing was fortunate that Spearhead was underway conducting operations with an embarked Ghanaian inter-ministerial maritime law enforcement team alongside a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment and could be diverted to intercept and shadow the MAXIMUS while African surface assets were mustered,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tom Pickering, AFRICOM’s Nigeria & Cameroon Country Desk Officer.

Nigeria Chief of Defence Staff visits AFRICOM
“To contain Boko Haram, working together is a priority,” said Gen. David Rodriguez, then commander of U.S. Africa Command. “Your presence here builds upon our partnership – and that is key to combating threats in the region.”


More than 30 nations participated in the special operations Exercise Flintlock 2016.
“Flintlock is more than a military exercise, we are training together to increase our interoperability and collaboration to counter today’s threats.” – U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, Special Operations Command-Africa commander.

The Senegalese army chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Amadou Kane, welcomed the guests as brothers-in-arms from different countries.
“We’re meeting at a particularly crucial moment in the history of our continent and even more important our sub-regions,” said Kane. “Now, even more than the past, the increase of terrorism is a major concern to all of our countries. This moment of apprehension and challenges is also a moment to decide a sole and unique choice for the future, react together to stand in the in the way of violent extremists.”


Gender based violence subject of legal engagement
“The men sent my parents away at the point of their AK-47, then they raped me.”

That was the opening salvo of “Rana’s story,” an account of a young woman victimized as she and her family tried to flee to safety.

Rana’s story is tragic because it happens all too often, even when peacekeeping troops have been sent to a conflict area to protect people like Rana. Sometimes the perpetrators have actually been the peacekeeping troops.

Responding to gender based violence during peacekeeping operations (PKOs) was the focus for 2016’s colloquium, and was led by Deputy Chief of Legal Services for the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces, Col. Godard Busingye, who served as the course director and who initially proposed the topic when approached by AFRICOM to serve as the Director of the Colloquium.
“Our goal is to lay a foundation within a legal framework on how to address sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) during peacekeeping operations,” said Busingye. “AACIV builds on the momentum gained in the previous three African Accountability Colloquia and maintains an African focus on issues relevant to the African militaries.”

Exercise Obangame/Saharan Express 2016
“From Senegal to the Gulf of Guinea, it’s a huge space. Maritime threats and maritime risks are trans-national, and we need cooperation to better deal with these threats and risks.” -Senegalese navy Capt. Abdou Sene, Chief of Operations Division, Senegalese navy

The two exercises were combined into one exercise to enhance and increase regional partnerships across West Africa. Combining the exercises allowed countries to work together who had not worked together previously.

The event focused specifically on focused on counter-piracy, energy security, counter illegal fishing, and counter illicit trafficking. In 2016 it also featured training on search and rescue operations, and advanced medical training. The exercise included a wide variety of training for all participating forces including at-sea ship boarding and queries, air operations, communication drills, and regional information sharing.


Africa Logistics Forum

The Africa Logistics Forum 2016 was conducted at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra, Ghana, 12-14 April. Hosted by the African Union Peace Support Operations Division and co-sponsored by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and U.S. Africa Command, more than 100 attendees convened to examine logistics challenges in Africa’s security sector.

Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP)

AMLEP is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored theater security cooperation initiative facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet which seeks to build capability and capacity to increase maritime safety and security, while enabling African maritime forces to effectively patrol their waters and combat illicit maritime activity.

AMLEP is companion to and nested within the international collaborative capacity-building initiative Africa Partnership Station (APS), also sponsored by AFRICOM and facilitated by CNE-CNA/C6F. APS, like AMLEP, seeks to build maritime security capacity in order to increase maritime safety and security.

In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard supported the Senegalese navy during an AMLEP event.


Combat logistics’ role supports African Lion 16

The complexity of logistics cannot be understated when it comes to supporting an event such as Exercise African Lion.

Ensuring that the hundreds of service members from participating nations have the correct information and supplies to carry out the exercise takes a lot of planning and coordination. The U.S. Marines in the JOC worked together as a team to manage how each element of the exercise will receive what they need to be successful.
“The basic function is to gather and hoard information and give it to the appropriate people so we can gather it back up and get the correct missions pushed out,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Edwards, senior watch officer with Combat Logistics Regiment 4, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve.



Twenty flags of U.N. partner nations and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, blew in the warm Burkina Faso wind between two formations of soldiers representing various participating militaries.

Western Accord 16 is an annual combined, joint exercise designed to increase the ability of African partner forces and the U.S. to exercise participants’ capability and capacity to conduct African Union/United Nation mandated peace operations. Lead planners from the Burkina Faso army, U.S. Army Africa and the U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou began coordinating the exercise in December, 2015.
“An exercise of this size is normally planned in eight to 12 months, however we had five months to prepare for this exercise,” said Maj. Justin Sisak, U.S. Army Africa lead planner for Western Accord 16. “It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of shared responsibility with the host nation, Burkina Faso. They have been excellent partners. Without their commitment we couldn’t have done it.”


Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet facilitated regional exercises. The exercise is part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.
“The benefit of Phoenix Express is the coordination and collaboration that happens between multi-national partners in the maritime environment,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Kevin Kovacich, then director of strategy, plans and programs, U.S. Africa Command. “Every Chief of Naval Operations that I have ever worked for, part of their vison has always been not just the U.S. Forces but all of the other partners that we operate with around the world. “It takes all of us working together and contributing to each other’s knowledge and experience.”

Scenarios focused on the globally-recognized Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and allowed the endorsing nations of Tunisia and Morocco to develop capabilities to detect and disrupt the delivery of materials used to build and develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
“I provide customized and dedicated training to the participating units and have been committed to this for the past nine years since the center was established,” said Commodore Georgios Tsogkas, Commandant of NATO Maritime, Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC), Hellenic Navy. “Phoenix Express sets the provisions to allow partners to get integrated and provide opportunities for the crew members to work and integrate together.”

Participating nations in Phoenix Express 2016 included Algeria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the U.S.

Mauritania Chief of Defence visits AFRICOM

AFRICOM welcomed the Mauritania CHoD to AFRICOM – Maj. Gen. Cheikh Ghazouani met with Gen. David Rodriguez, then commander of U.S. Africa Command, to discuss regional security and other shared interests on May 18, 2016 in Stuttgart, Germany.

Memorial Day event honors Americans
 The commander and senior enlisted officer of U.S. Africa Command laid a wreath in Tunisia May 30 to honor the 6,565 U.S. service members who were laid to rest or listed as missing in action at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.

The majority lost their lives during World War II military activities in North Africa that ultimately culminated in Tunisia’s liberation in 1943.

General David Rodriguez, then commander of U.S. Africa Command, said it was fitting as the senior U.S. military commander in Africa to be in Tunisia on Memorial Day stating he wanted to honor those young service-members who spent their final days on the African continent.
“As I near the end of my career as a solider, my visit to this cemetery and memorial is personally significant,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to be here as an old soldier and pay tribute to the young soldier who died to defend values we hold dear.”

Several members of the Tunisian military, including their honor guard, attended and participated in the Memorial Day ceremony.
“We must continue to work together to address our common threats, and to face today’s challenges with the same ardor and conviction that our men and women brought to great challenges of the past,” said Rodriguez.



An audience of senior military leaders, multinational soldiers and guests of honor from across the world gathered for the Central Accord 2016 opening ceremony at the Gabon Air Force Base on June 13.
“Regional exercises are one of the best ways to test and evaluate capabilities and procedures before a real world crisis,” said U.S. Ambassador to Gabon, Cynthia H. Akuetteh. “The multi-national cooperation marking Central Accord 2016 in Libreville, Gabon, gives me great confidence that we will be better prepared and better equipped to face the future together,” said Ambassador Akuetteh.

The ceremony featured welcoming speeches from Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Gabonese Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Olame Ndong Ferdinand Gaspard, Secretary General of the National Ministry of Defense, Vice Adm. Gabriel Mally Hodjoua and U.S. Ambassador to Gabon, Cynthia H. Akuetteh.

First ever African Partnership Flight in Kenya
“We have built a partnership and friendship that has helped open the door for further engagement, knowledge sharing and interoperability between our forces.” – U.S. Air Force Capt. Aaron Charbonneau, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa, APF Kenya mission planner.

The first ever African Partnership Flight in Kenya was designed to encourage collaboration in a learning environment and enhance regional partnerships. APF Kenya allowed for a wide-range of knowledge to be shared amongst the 280 total participants. The training helped build shared experience and improve partner nation capabilities.



Eastern Accord 16 in Tanzania – Nine countries participated in a 2-week exercise designed to build readiness, maintain U.S. and African coalition partnerships, facilitate interoperability between militaries and build capacity.

Participating partner nations were Ethiopia, Djibouti, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, and included organizations such as the African Union, the East African Standby Force, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, for a total of over 200 personnel.
“The command post exercise, Eastern Accord 2016, is designed to bring a real time reflection on peace support operations, counter terrorism and humanitarian assistance,” said Hussein Ali Mwinyi, Tanzanian Minister of Defense and National Service. “The exercise is quite encompassing having participants from nine countries.”

Gen. Rodriguez retires after 40-year military career
“After I was a company commander, I thought I might do this a little bit longer,” he said. “The military kept giving me opportunities and I just kept going.”
“A stable Africa matters to the United States because it is a big continent and has tremendous potential in many different ways,” Rodriguez said. “If it’s not stable then challenges such as criminality, violent extremism, and humanitarian challenges can all create instability in this region which then extends to other locations throughout the world.”

Rodriguez had nothing but gratitude for his years of military service. The military, he said, “has been an incredible opportunity for both me and my family. It has been a remarkable experience and I am thankful to my wife Ginny and my four children for supporting me through it all, and making all things possible.”

AFRICOM welcomes new commander

Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser is first Marine to lead U.S. Africa Command

Waldhauser is the fourth commander, and the first Marine Corps general to lead AFRICOM, established in 2008 to coordinate U.S. military relations and activities with African nations, regional organizations, and the African Union. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, presided over the ceremony.

Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser assumed command of U.S. Africa Command during a ceremony at Patch Barracks, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany, July 18, 2016. Waldhauser succeeded Gen. David M. Rodriguez to become the fourth AFRICOM commander.

Vermont Guardsmen enhance partnership through Africa Readiness Training

As part of the State Partner Program, the relationship between Senegal and Vermont is one of 70 partnerships that pair a state’s National Guard with the armed forces of a foreign ally or partner, developing unique and long-term relationships that provide benefits to both sides.

While active military units such as 2nd Brigade might only come to Senegal one time for an exercise like ART16, the VTARNG provides a consistent and long-term partnership to build security cooperation with Senegalese Armed Forces.
“We provide continuity,” said U.S. Army Maj. Mathew Rodeck, a VTARNG officer serving as the Bilateral Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Security Cooperation in Dakar. “Senegal gets to work with the same people for seven-ten years and the relationships are enduring.”
“Senegal was a key link controlling Ebola,” said Rodeck. “Based on the relationship we built with Senegal, they offered our military use of their facilities to stage and launch our Ebola response in terms of personnel and equipment for movement to Liberia.”
“We had approximately 30 security cooperation events with Senegal last year,” said Rodeck, who emphasized that for the Guardsmen who participate in these exchanges, the State Partner Program allows them to learn how to work with a foreign partner, understand their culture and procedures, and find ways to accomplish a mission.


Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya’s unity government visits AFRICOM. The meeting provided participants an opportunity to discuss the current U.S. government support to the Libyan Government of National Accord and on the steps towards building a common path forward to promote Libyan stability and security.

Africa Endeavor

U.S. Africa Command kicks off 10th Africa Endeavor in Madagascar

In its 10th session, the five-day leader symposium brought together representatives from nearly 40 African nations and several regional and international organizations.

The President of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina and the AFRICOM Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations Vice Admiral Michael Franken where keynote speakers for the opening ceremony.
“Africa Endeavor is based on the transmission of information,” Rajaonarimampianina said before nearly 400 participants and special guests. “And transmission of information is essential – vital – to the heart of the changing world in which we live today.”
“Communication – be it strategic, operational or tactical – is pivotal to our partnership and mutual understanding,” added Franken. “Even the best equipped and most highly trained force must communicate effectively or else be rendered ineffective.”
“Through the Africa Endeavor program we have enhanced partner operations by sharing the challenges and best practices of Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) during humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” said Army Col. Christopher Eubank, AFRICOM Communications Director. “And produced tools to enable our partnerships like the ‘Africa C4 Handbook’ and the All Partner Network.”

AFRICOM conducts Command Surgeon’s Conference
“The opportunity to get everyone together in one room is paramount to the success of our command,” said Col. George Appenzeller, AFRICOM command surgeon. “Our goal is to protect and care for service members and families and this event helps us to do so.”

Representatives from AFRICOM’s component commands, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, and other U.S. military, interagency, and partner organizations attended the event.

According to Cmdr. Byron Wiggins of AFRICOM surgeon’s office, one way that this conference differed from similar events hosted by the surgeon’s office was the inclusion of working groups that focused on several topics, to include the integration of capabilities between the different military branches and patient movement.
“Developing international partnerships and close working relationships between our international partners and our components is key to making sure that we limit risk to our service members,” Appenzeller said.


African Partnership Flight Ghana

Twelve African Partner Nations learned about airbase defense, deployment command and control, airfield standup and operations, log support, C-130 tactics, techniques and procedures; and aerial patient movement.
“APF is really unique because it’s a military-to-military event. Typically, during a mil-to-mil event, you go to one country and have one objective but APFs are so diverse and we are able to focus on multiple objectives simultaneously,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Aaron Charbonneau, USAFE-AFAFRICA APF Ghana mission planner.

In all, APF Ghana hosted participants from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia to help strengthen relationships and share best practices through classroom instruction and hands-on training.

APFs are comprised of multiple workshops designed to provide diverse experiences to different African countries at one time. The events serve as stepping stones to providing persistent diplomatic, informational, humanitarian and economic outreach efforts that support the diverse people and nations in Africa.


Cameroon hosts multinational planning event for first ever exercise Unified Focus 2017
“We call once again your attention to the importance of your efforts here, and that there is an enemy that is unrelenting.” – Ludovic Etienne Ngwba, Secretary General in the Littoral Governor’s Office, Cameroon

Military planners from the U.S., Cameroon and six other African and European nations converged to begin the initial planning for the inaugural U.S. Army Africa-led exercise Unified Focus 2017, scheduled to take place in April.

UF17 is a tabletop exercise that brings the military partners of the Lake Chad Basin area’s Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) together to practice joint planning and coordination through a series of scripted vignettes.

This is the first Unified Focus exercise and will be hosted by the defense forces of Cameroon. The vignettes planned for the tabletop exercise focus on the counter Boko Haram operations of the MNJTF with an additional focus on regional security and stability.
“With the information that we get from this exercise and all that we learn from one another we’re going to be able to take the fight to Boko Haram,” said Cameroonian Maj. Gen. Saly Mohamadou, the commander of the 2nd Military Region and senior host for the planning event.
“You can see that the region is still in a troubling way with the terrorist threat and there are issues that we’ve seen in the news recently. But with what we are doing here we are going to be able to address those issues in the fight against Boko Haram,” said Saly.
“The coming together of all the experts of Nigeria, Benin, Niger to this conference is evident of their dedication to getting rid of the threats in the Lake Chad Basin area,” said Ludovic Etienne Ngwba, Secretary General in the Littoral Governor’s Office, Cameroon.
“The efforts of the United States are in conjunction with all the partner nations from Nigeria, Niger, Benin, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The goal is aimed at improved coordination in order to get rid of the threat you see affecting the area,” said Ngwba.

Task Force Hurricane Soldiers Complete French Desert Survival Course

Approximately 46 U.S. Army Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, along with French Marines completed the French Marine Desert Survival Course on Oct. 12, 2016.

The soldiers and French Marines came together during the French-led course to learn desert survival skills and operational techniques in Arta’s austere environment, so as to better prepare for future real world situations.
“The main focus is combined arms tactical training, which is 70 percent of the course,” said French Capt. Charles Lenoir, French Desert Survival Course head instructor. “Then, 15-20 percent is obstacle course training— or what we call “commando”-type training. The other 10 percent is desert survival course, which goes over how to survive, how to prepare meals, and how to make a fire and water in desert conditions.”


U.S. Leaders visit Niger Air Base
“Niger remains a strong and reliable counterterrorism partner, and we remain committed to helping Niger protect its borders.” – Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command

Gen. Waldhauser visited Niger Armed Forces’ Air Base 201 to meet with U.S. troops, members of the Forces Armées Nigériennes (FAN), and local civilian leaders. He was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Niger Eunice S. Reddick.
“We are here at the request of and in close coordination with Nigerien government leaders to assist them in making improvements to Air Base 201,” said Gen. Waldhauser. “Niger remains a strong and reliable counterterrorism partner, and we remain committed to helping Niger protect its borders.”

The location of Air Base 201 in Agadez will improve our collective ability to facilitate intelligence sharing that better supports Niger and other regional partner nations, including Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Nigeria in addressing shared security threats. It will also improve our collective capability to respond to regional security issues.

First ever Basic Intel Course designed to build skills of female military intel personnel

Burkina Faso and AFRICOM co-host Basic Intel Course

Twenty-five female officers and non-commissioned officers from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia participated in a regional all-female Basic Intelligence Course (BIC) in Ouagadougou from 31 October – 18 November. The class also included two associate instructors from Mali and Tunisia.

The training is designed to develop the skills necessary to operate effectively as part of a team by supporting tactical operations in international peacekeeping, peace enforcement, or security operations. Topics included intelligence concepts, the intelligence cycle, collection management, Intelligence Preparation of the Environment (IPE), map reading, the Law of Armed Conflicts, Human Rights, intelligence writing, briefing techniques, intelligence reporting and intelligence analysis and tools – all of which are essential for successful military intelligence operations.

Providing an all-female class highlighted the importance of training all military members, not only to maximize the success of women in the military intelligence field, but to maximize the success of the military organization as a whole. Women in the military face challenges that are different from their male counterparts, which is why it is important to create opportunities to provide training for females.


AFRICOM hosts journalists from Cameroon and Niger

Fifteen journalists from Africa participated in a media delegation visit hosted by U.S. Africa Command, Nov. 28 – Dec. 1, 2016, at Kelly Barracks, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart.
“Before coming here I had skeptical ideas of AFRICOM, but now I have bigger and better ideas,” said Jean Bruno Tagne, deputy general manager, Canal 2 International television station in Cameroon. “What’s important is that AFRICOM’s mission isn’t mainly military operations, it’s about humanitarian actions, such as like the efforts during the Ebola outbreak.”
“The whole concept behind the media delegation visits is that it allows us an opportunity to meet face to face with media representatives from across the continent of Africa,” said Col. Mark Cheadle, AFRICOM chief of public affairs and communication synchronization. “We extend invitations, and with the assistance of our embassies, they nominate top journalists in Africa who write or produce stories and content on things such as the military, regional security, and humanitarian issues.

AFRICOM concludes Operation Odyssey Lightning

The United States Africa Command concluded Operation Odyssey Lightning Dec. 19, following an announcement from the Libyan government of the end of offensive military operations in Sirte.