USA/African Union

Multi­na­tion­al Exer­cise Sparks Change for Africa

By Maj. Eric Hilliard
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain, Nov. 20, 2008 — U.S. Africa Com­mand wrapped up a 14-nation exer­cise here today that lead­ers say was a big step for­ward in increas­ing African nations’ abil­i­ty to man­age their own secu­ri­ty.

Senegalese soldiers practice exiting the ramp of a U.S. Air Force CV-22 in Bamako
Sene­galese sol­diers prac­tice exit­ing the ramp of a U.S. Air Force CV-22 in Bamako, Mali, Nov. 12, 2008. The sol­diers are par­tic­i­pat­ing in U.S. Africa Command’s Oper­a­tion Flint­lock, a 14-nation mul­ti­force exer­cise with a focus on help­ing African nations.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sgt. Nicholas Her­nande

The exer­cise, known as Flint­lock 09, was devel­oped as a joint multi­na­tion­al exer­cise to improve infor­ma­tion shar­ing at the oper­a­tional and tac­ti­cal lev­els across the Saha­ran region while fos­ter­ing increased col­lab­o­ra­tion and coor­di­na­tion. Effec­tive mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary train­ing and multi­na­tion­al region­al coop­er­a­tion were the keys to suc­cess, Africom offi­cials said.

The exercise’s focus was on counter-ter­ror­ism efforts, but it encom­passed much more, orga­niz­ers said.

“Flint­lock brought the exper­tise and expe­ri­ence from each nation togeth­er so that the entire team could ben­e­fit,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, Africom com­man­der, told par­tic­i­pants in a video mes­sage. “By work­ing along­side each oth­er, you helped improve the secu­ri­ty capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty of all the par­tic­i­pat­ing nations.”

Africom lead­ers con­sid­er the abil­i­ty to work togeth­er, with Africans lead­ing the way, as essen­tial to ensur­ing the com­mon goal of a sta­ble and secure Africa. This includes stem­ming the flow of illic­it arms, goods and peo­ple, pre­vent­ing out­laws from estab­lish­ing sanc­tu­ar­ies in the Trans-Saha­ran region, multi­na­tion­al efforts to respond to nat­ur­al dis­as­ters and more, they said.

Niger Army Maj. Toure Sey­dou Abdel Aziz said his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the exer­cise would fos­ter bet­ter rela­tions for his coun­try and its sur­round­ing neigh­bors to pro­tect the region.

“My main role as a mil­i­tary offi­cer is to keep Niger’s ter­ri­to­ry safe,” Aziz said. ” On a larg­er scale, we also must help our neigh­bors keep their ter­ri­to­ries safe from ter­ror­ism. Flint­lock helps Niger by cre­at­ing a link with our part­ners and help­ing us learn about each oth­er. This way, by us know­ing each oth­er now, we will be able to work bet­ter togeth­er in the future.”

More than 200 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed in Flint­lock, a part of Africom’s Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom-Trans Sahara, which pro­vides mil­i­tary sup­port to State Depart­ment pro­grams that, togeth­er, aim to enhance region­al secu­ri­ty in Africa by also address­ing eco­nom­ic and social devel­op­ment, as well as things like dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and med­ical emer­gen­cies.

The exer­cise con­sist­ed of small-unit com­bined train­ing and activ­i­ties involv­ing U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tion forces and part­ner nation mil­i­taries through­out the region. Among oth­er things, the exer­cise includ­ed the first-ever deploy­ment of the U.S. Air Force Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Command’s CV-22 Osprey to the African con­ti­nent. It also includ­ed train­ing in cri­sis response and med­ical and vet­eri­nary skills in the hopes of extend­ing those skills to Africa’s rur­al peo­ple.

The exer­cise includ­ed a Multi­na­tion­al Coor­di­na­tion Cen­ter where mil­i­tary lead­ers col­lab­o­rat­ed and devel­oped con­cepts and plans with del­e­ga­tions from six African nations and five Euro­pean nations. A reli­gious lay leader was there to bridge cul­tur­al and lan­guage gaps.

“I’m espe­cial­ly impressed with some of the frank dis­cus­sions tak­ing place amongst the African part­ner nation rep­re­sen­ta­tives gath­ered here,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Steve Wisotz­ki, com­man­dant of the Multi­na­tion­al Coor­di­na­tion Cen­ter for the exer­cise. “We’ve real­ly tried hard to fos­ter an envi­ron­ment that empha­sizes our core shared val­ues and inter­ests, while not allow­ing our­selves to be dis­tract­ed too much by the chang­ing polit­i­cal land­scapes on all sides.”

“The cama­raderie we’ve shared dur­ing the exer­cise, both pro­fes­sion­al­ly and per­son­al­ly, has been refresh­ing­ly heart­felt,” said Wisotz­ki, the com­man­dant of the exer­cise. “There’s no doubt that the seeds of change have been sown, and that the new ener­gy that Africom brings to the con­ti­nent is being absorbed by all. It’s been a great exer­cise and incred­i­bly reward­ing for me to be a part of it. I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the effort.”

“What we did here was to essen­tial­ly design a frame­work for coop­er­a­tion,” Army Lt. Col. Peter Tate said of the cen­ter. “The MCC con­cept in this envi­ron­ment is a new mod­el. We are all learn­ing, togeth­er, how to make it work.”

With mul­ti­ple nations from var­i­ous walks of life and sev­er­al faiths par­tic­i­pat­ing in the exer­cise, the plan­ners of the Flint­lock 09 exer­cise lis­tened to feed­back from the pre­vi­ous exer­cise two years ago and ded­i­cat­ed a room in the multi­na­tion­al coor­di­na­tion cen­ter for prayer and reflec­tion.

U.S. Army Capt. Michael Cor­ley helped lead the reli­gious ser­vices. “They wel­comed my insights into what I felt were the best ways to extend the free­dom to prac­tice reli­gion to our part­ner nations. I think pro­vid­ing this oppor­tu­ni­ty… was one of best things the com­mand could have done. Feed­back from those who took advan­tage of the prayer room was over­whelm­ing­ly pos­i­tive. It went that extra effort to show that the U.S.… prac­tices what it preach­es when it comes to encour­ag­ing free­dom of reli­gious expres­sion.

“Serv­ing as a reli­gious minor­i­ty group lay-leader dur­ing Flint­lock 09 was tru­ly one of the best efforts I have ever had the plea­sure of par­tic­i­pat­ing in dur­ing my mil­i­tary career,” Cor­ley added.

Dur­ing the clos­ing cer­e­monies for the cen­ter yes­ter­day, Maj. Gen. Antho­ny Jack­son, Africom direc­tor of oper­a­tions and logis­tics, com­ment­ed about the cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences between the Unit­ed States and some of the oth­er mil­i­taries.

“As many of you have expressed, and as I have heard on numer­ous occa­sions through­out my trav­els to Africa and oth­er coun­tries around the world, is that we Amer­i­cans are very end-result ori­ent­ed and will take the fastest route pos­si­ble to achieve an objec­tive,” Jack­son said. “We some­times do not take the time to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the cul­tur­al sen­si­tiv­i­ties that could often hin­der us from achiev­ing that objec­tive. I hope that dur­ing the course of this exer­cise, our team lead­ers spent as much time lis­ten­ing as they did lead­ing.”

Maj. Gen. Edward Lea­cock, deputy direc­tor of Africom’s Intel­li­gence and Knowl­edge Devel­op­ment Divi­sion, told par­tic­i­pants he hoped the exer­cise “sets a strong prece­dent for future U.S. Africa Com­mand engage­ments where the U.S. mil­i­tary will active­ly seek the part­ner­ship of African stake­hold­ers to meet com­mon chal­lenges.”

Lea­cock added that he hoped a multi­na­tion­al force “will help our part­ner nations stand togeth­er to bold­ly con­front the human­i­tar­i­an crises in the Sahel and African Sahara regions.”

(Maj. Eric Hilliard works in the U.S. Africa Com­mand pub­lic affairs office).

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