U.S. Africa Command hosted the inaugural Multilateral Logistic Seminar (MLLS) between 24 and 28 September in Sindelfingen, Germany.
Led by the AFRICOM Directorate of Logistics/J4, the purpose is to provide strategic logistical training to African partners. In addition to advisors from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defense, about 40 personnel, including 24 senior African logistics professionals representing 18 African nations, participated.
Attendees participated in a wide range of discussions and activities each with comprehensive logistics equities. The 5-day curriculum, designed by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, consisted of in-depth discussion sessions, case studies, small-group projects and practical exercises.
“We have two main focus areas: sustaining operations across Africa and maturing the theater in order to do our mission,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Leonard Kosinski, director of logistics, AFRICOM J4. “Our mission is security force assistance and partnership, responding to crises and humanitarian disasters, and countering violent extremists and trans-national threats that affect all of us.”
The MLLS promoted face-to-face networking for strategic-level logisticians and enhanced African partners’ abilities to find African solutions to African challenges, said U.S. Army Maj. Bridget Baldwin, engagements officer, AFRICOM J4.
“In this seminar, African partner representatives focused on regional logistical challenges and were able to identify challenges in their specific regions, with the hope that partners will take the knowledge gained here to implement this at their respective countries and regions,” said Baldwin.
The event reinforced all AFRICOM lines of effort, to include enhancing partner capacity and strengthening partner networks by bringing together senior logistic partners from Africa to receive strategic-level logistics training and to participate in logistical discussions.
“AFRICOM wants to impart into us understanding not just within the African context, but also the global context which encompasses Africa, U.S., Europe and Asia, as well,” said Liberian Army Capt. Benjamin Wymon, commander, Logistics Command, Armed Forces of Liberia.
Enhancing African partner-to-partner relationships is important for African leaders to increase the efficiency of logistical efforts and capacities, according to Baldwin.
“Countries within the same regions deal with similar logistical issues. So, if a crisis occurs, African partners will seek assistance from fellow regional partners, making logistical efforts more efficient and cost-effective,” Baldwin said.
Kosinski took time to address the attendees and noted the importance of improving logistical capacities across Africa while pointing out many key logistics security cooperation efforts such as the Africa Logistics Symposium, the Africa Distribution Network Forum, and Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreements (ACSAs).
“The U.S. has ACSAs with many countries around the world,” Kosinski said. “An ASCA says that if supplies are needed, if we need to help you transport your troops, or if we need to use your services and bases to assist during a disaster, we have a mechanism to be able to do so.”
Without ACSAs, responding to humanitarian disasters or contingencies might take a prolonged time, according to Kosinski.
“If we didn’t have this agreement and there was a natural disaster, people’s lives would be at stake, said Kosinski as he addressed the African partners. “I encourage you to ask how it works for your countries and how it can be improved.”
Army Lt. Col. Harvey Wolff, logistics chief of plans and engagements, AFRICOM J4, spoke briefly to the attendees about the annual Africa Logistics Symposium and what has been accomplished through it.
“Africa Logistics Symposium provides an opportunity to bring logistics experts from all 55 nations of the African Union,” said Wolff. “Because of the symposium, we were able to stand up the Continental Logistics Base in Douala, Cameroon, and assist in operational possession of the regional logistic depots and Continental Movement Coordination Center. We’re ensuring that logistics enables our teams and not hinders.”
The Multilateral Logistic Seminar was established at the request of African partners. African leaders expressed their desire to enhance logistics capabilities and capacities through shared training.
Engagements such as MLLS provide dividends in the event of regional or continental wide crisis, according to Wolff.
“African logisticians are typically more comfortable seeking assistance from regional partners, if a solid relationship has been established,” Wolff said. “MLLS seeks to provide the opportunity for relationship building.”
MLLS was well received by African partner attendees.
“The seminar was awesome and I’ve learned a lot,” Wymon said. “A lot has been said about the challenges of logistics. I know today that these challenges are beatable as long as you have your objective and an end-state to accomplish as a mission.”