Mullen Visits Horn of Africa Task Force

CAMP LEMONNIER, Dji­bouti, Feb. 24, 2011 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff took time today dur­ing his whirl­wind trip through the Mid­dle East to vis­it with troops of Com­bined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, whose full-time focus here is on main­tain­ing sta­bil­i­ty and pre­vent­ing con­flict.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen’s vis­it here was part of a week-long, six-coun­try trip aimed at reas­sur­ing U.S. allies and hear­ing their views of the unfold­ing events sur­round­ing unrest in the region.

In Dji­bouti, Mullen met with Maj. Gen. Ahmed Hou­se­in Fathi, chief of the gen­er­al staff, and oth­er key mil­i­tary lead­ers. Dji­bouti expe­ri­enced only small-scale protests that have qui­et­ed down, offi­cials here said, unlike Yemen and Libya, just across the Gulf of Aden.

A high­light of the day, Mullen said, was his vis­it to Com­bined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. Navy Rear Adm. Bri­an Losey, the task force com­man­der, updat­ed him on oper­a­tions his 1,700 ser­vice mem­bers are con­duct­ing to pro­vide not just secu­ri­ty assis­tance, but also human­i­tar­i­an sup­port and devel­op­ment to the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

The task force ini­tial­ly stood up in Novem­ber 2002 as a sea­far­ing force aimed at block­ing ter­ror­ists flee­ing Afghanistan from set­ting up a new safe haven here. But with­in six months, it moved ashore to this for­mer French For­eign Legion base.

Today, the task force focus­es on chal­lenges in a region strate­gic because of its geo­graph­ic loca­tion, resources and strug­gles with insta­bil­i­ty, offi­cials told reporters trav­el­ing with Mullen.

The goal, said Army Brig. Gen. William L. Glas­gow, deputy task force com­man­der, is to help African nations build capa­bil­i­ty so they can pro­mote region­al secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty and pre­vent con­flict.

“We’re build­ing friend­ships with Africa and try­ing to help Africans solve African prob­lems,” said Army Spc. Gary McGoyne, deployed here to pro­vide secu­ri­ty for the task force’s stand-by parares­cue medics.

The task force is a mod­el of the “whole of gov­ern­ment” approach that Mullen, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and oth­ers advo­cate for pro­mot­ing U.S. secu­ri­ty inter­ests, Glas­gow explained.

Mil­i­tary mem­bers here work hand in hand with per­son­nel from the State Depart­ment and U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment to cre­ate a sta­ble cli­mate that pro­motes a bet­ter qual­i­ty of life for the local pop­u­la­tion, he said.

In doing so, they apply mul­ti­ple ele­ments of U.S. nation­al pow­er — the so-called “three D’s” of defense, diplo­ma­cy and devel­op­ment –- to their mis­sion with an array of mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary efforts aimed at build­ing capac­i­ty and human­i­tar­i­an and civic-sup­port activ­i­ties.

Projects go beyond dig­ging wells and build­ing or refur­bish­ing schools, with the task force ensur­ing that the host nations are able to sus­tain what’s done and that the work con­tributes to the big-pic­ture goals here. “Every­thing con­tributes to the long-term com­mit­ment we have,” Glas­gow said.

Glas­gow described the ser­vice mem­bers under­tak­ing these projects –- many oper­at­ing far from Camp Lemon­nier in three- to five-per­son teams –- as “strate­gic pri­vates.” Before being dis­patched for these mis­sions, they get full brief­in­gs about the job they’ll be doing, but more impor­tant­ly, why it mat­ters and how it fits into the strate­gic mis­sion here, he said.

Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Den­nis Cof­fey, a motor pool chief who deployed here last month, said he enjoys the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­act with local Dji­boutians and rec­og­nizes the impor­tance of the task force mis­sion in pro­mot­ing region­al and even glob­al sta­bil­i­ty. “It’s very impor­tant that we are here to show our sup­port,” he said.

These ini­tia­tives fall direct­ly in line with the “soft” ele­ments of nation­al pow­er Gates wants to see beefed up so non­mil­i­tary U.S. gov­ern­ment enti­ties can be stronger part­ners in advanc­ing U.S. inter­ests around the world.

Navy Cmdr. Jeff Peter­son, who works close­ly with embassy offi­cials as offi­cer in charge of the coun­try coor­di­na­tion ele­ment, said this coop­er­a­tion leads to “syn­er­gy and bet­ter results” in advanc­ing U.S. objec­tives here. Ulti­mate­ly, he said, it sup­ports “phase zero” –- a non­k­i­net­ic, sta­ble and secure region where good gov­er­nance and democ­ra­cy can take hold.

As he walked through Camp Lemon­nier, Mullen took time at every oppor­tu­ni­ty to shake hands and talk with ser­vice mem­bers, pose for pho­tos and present them his offi­cial coin. See­ing oper­a­tions on the ground, he said, gives him a “bet­ter feel for what is going on,” adding that min­gling with the ser­vice mem­bers deployed so far from home “made my day.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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