AFRICOM civilian deputy stresses diplomacy at US Army Africa seminar


Soldiers and civilians from US Army Africa must act as ambassadors, US Africa Command’s senior civilian leader told attendees of the Great Lakes Seminar held this week in Vicenza, Italy.

Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, AFRICOM’s deputy to the commander for civil military activities, opened the three-day professional development event geared toward East Africa amid his official visit to US Army Africa headquarters at Caserma Ederle. The seminar’s coursework offers important background for US Army Africa staff as they partner with land forces in Africa, Holmes said.
“You’re representing not only your military service and AFRICOM, but the United States,” Holmes said. “You are creating impression of who we are and what we do.”

Roughly 130 Soldiers and civilians from US Army Africa, US Africa Command and Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa took part in the seminar. Many attendees already gained an appreciation for the Great Lakes Region – the area in East Africa near Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika, Kivu, Edward and Albert – during recent military familiarization events in Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. Others took part in Natural Fire 10. Held in Uganda in October 2009, the humanitarian and civil assistance exercise brought together the land forces from five East African nations, plus more than 500 US service members – the largest US Defense Department exercise held in Africa last year.
“We have a lot of experience in the Great Lakes region, but we understand the need to continue learning,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of US Army Africa. “We have to think critically about the challenges we face and apply creative solutions.”

The instructors were from US and international governments, universities and think tanks.

Lectures were offered on geography, governance, culture, economics, public health and crime.

Gen William Crouch, a retired Army four-star general, opened the seminar, part of the Naval Postgraduate School program, “Leadership Development and Education for Sustained Peace.” The academic course is designed to spark discussion, Crouch said.

During his two-day visit to Caserma Ederle, Holmes underwent US Army Africa briefings and stopped at the Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units, located at Gen. A. Chinotto barracks in downtown Vicenza, where Italian Carabinieri train international police to improve their abilities to operate in peacekeeping missions.

US AFRICOM’s leadership is unique in that it has two deputy commanders, one military and one civilian. Holmes, a senior US diplomat, arrived at his current post in September. Much of his three-decade career in foreign service has focused on Africa, to include serving as US Ambassador to Burkina Faso from 2002 to 2005.

In the past, Holmes said he wrote about militarization of foreign policy. Now he sees an emerging twist, the “diplomatization” of the military, especially in units such as US Army Africa, where Soldiers and civilians build relationships and conduct events that strengthen capacity for Africans to face their own challenges.

The efforts of US AFRICOM are part of a long-term, sustained engagement with African partner nations, Holmes said. US Army Africa has a significant part in that strategy, to include building a greater understanding among the military forces of partner nations to know their role in democracy, he said.
“Your command, as well as other service components, can do that, a little bit at time,” Holmes said. “You will be making a significant contribution to the foreign policy of our government.”

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