Task Force Prepares for Horn of Africa Mission

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2010 — Lead­ers prepar­ing to deploy to Dji­bouti in Jan­u­ary as the next head­quar­ters staff at Com­bined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa just wrapped up the first phase of a new, four-part train­ing pro­gram designed to pre­pare them as well as the fol­low-on task force for the unique, strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant mis­sion.
The core staff for the new head­quar­ters spent last week with U.S. 2nd Fleet at Nor­folk Naval Sta­tion, Va., where they focused on the aca­d­e­m­ic, “big pic­ture” issues asso­ci­at­ed with their upcom­ing deploy­ment, Navy Cmdr. Nick Mungas, U.S. Joint Forces Command’s lead plan­ner for the mis­sion rehearsal exer­cise, told reporters today via tele­con­fer­ence.

Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, the U.S. Africom com­man­der and Navy Rear Adm. Bri­an Losey, the cur­rent task force com­man­der, were among the pre­sen­ters. They and Joint Forces Com­mand facil­i­ta­tors pro­vid­ed a frame­work for the mis­sion and the part­ner­ship rela­tion­ships crit­i­cal to its suc­cess, Mungas said.

Com­bined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa focus­es on East Africa and Yemen, a region strate­gic because of its geo­graph­ic loca­tion, resources, and strug­gles with insta­bil­i­ty, explained Navy Cdr. Tim Leonard, the cur­rent task force plans offi­cer.

The goal is to help African nations build capa­bil­i­ty so they can pro­mote region­al secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty, pre­vent con­flict and pro­tect U.S. and coali­tion inter­ests.

“This is not a mis­sion CJTF HOA can accom­plish alone,” Leonard said. “We need to be part of a whole-of-gov­ern­ment approach” that also includes State Depart­ment and U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment capa­bil­i­ties to deliv­er the “three D’s:” diplo­ma­cy, devel­op­ment and defense.

“This is our chance, where we can come in and we can part­ner up with African coun­tries that are will­ing to solve their own prob­lems,” Leonard said. “We have been able to part­ner with a group of coun­tries to help them help them­selves.

“It’s a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty for us,” he said, “where it is in our inter­est as well as our African part­ners’ inter­est … to help them sta­bi­lize this area of the world which will, in turn, help our secu­ri­ty inter­ests back home.”

Based on the impor­tance of the mis­sion, Leonard said, it’s crit­i­cal the incom­ing task force’s head­quar­ters arrives in Dji­bouti ready to hit the ground run­ning.

“They have to come in [on] Day One and be ready to per­form, because we have to keep our effort going,” he said.

To ensure they’re ready, Joint Forces Com­mand begins a broad train­ing pro­gram months before the deploy­ment that con­tin­ues after the task force staffs arrive in the­ater.

Next month, Mun­gus said, task force lead­ers will put the lessons they’ve learned from last week’s train­ing into prac­tice dur­ing a com­put­er-assist­ed com­mand post exer­cise at Joint Forces Command’s Joint Warfight­ing Cen­ter in Suf­folk, Va. Sce­nar­ios, based on input from cur­rent and for­mer task force staffs, will include every­thing from the day-to-day nuts and bolts of mak­ing the joint task force work to high­er-lev­el plan­ning oper­a­tions at the strate­gic and oper­a­tional lev­el.

Leonard empha­sized that the train­ing focus­es on no sin­gle coun­try or threat sce­nario. “It’s more [about] teach­ing them a mind­set that’s very unique to this envi­ron­ment that most haven’t seen before,” he said.

After the task force deploys, Joint Forces Com­mand inter­acts reg­u­lar­ly with the staff and sends train­ers to assess which train­ing proved rel­e­vant and what needs tweak­ing to bet­ter pre­pare future head­quar­ters staffs, Mun­gus said.

Based on feed­back, Joint Forces Com­mand plans to launch a new addi­tion to the train­ing pro­gram. That train­ing, to be con­duct­ed in Dji­bouti this spring, will be offered to the entire task force staff and build on actu­al on-the-ground expe­ri­ence, Mun­gus said. While the pre-deploy­ment train­ing focused heav­i­ly on process­es, the in-the­ater ses­sions will focus on exter­nal inter­ac­tions, and how to make them suc­cess­ful, he said.

The final train­ing stage will take place next fall, when a Joint Forces Com­mand staff con­tin­gent will trav­el to Dji­bouti to observe oper­a­tions and assess lessons learned dur­ing the deploy­ment. Those lessons will be incor­po­rat­ed into the train­ing sce­nar­ios for the lead­er­ship of the fol­low-on com­bined task force.

Mun­gus com­pared the phased train­ing cycle, one that Leonard described as a “learn-prac­tice-learn cycle,” to a tele­vi­sion cook­ing show.

Instead of sim­ply show­ing par­tic­i­pants a recipe or telling them how to pre­pare it, the approach enables them to demon­strate what they’ve learned and its out­come, he said.

“We’ll show them what the recipe is, then get them in the kitchen and let them make some cook­ies, and then taste them and show them how tasty they were, after the fact,” Mun­gus said. “And then we’ll do that over and over again for all the dif­fer­ent parts of their engage­ment cycle.”

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

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