WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2010 — The National Guard and Reserves are making a vital contribution in Africa, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said here yesterday.
On any given day, 3,500 U.S. servicemembers serve on the continent, and 90 percent of those are Guard and Reserve members, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward said at the 2010 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Ward highlighted the almost 20-year-old, 62-nation, National Guard State Partnership Program that pairs Guard states with foreign countries. And he challenged Guard and Reserve leaders attending the exposition to sustain transformation of the Guard and Reserve.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what you have to make sure we do not lose” — momentum in transformation of the reserve component force, Ward said, noting today’s active and reserve components work in tandem with active-duty forces in operations around the world.
“In today’s environment, the Army does not do what it does without the full, comprehensive and complete participation of our Guard and Reserve force,” Ward said.
The reserve components’ work in Africa, including participation in major exercises and other operations, he said, benefits the United States by promoting stability, assists African nations and enriches the professional and personal lives of the servicemembers involved.
By land area, Africa could swallow the continental United States three and a half times, Ward said. One billion people live in Africa, he added, a population that’s predicted to double in 50 years. Some raw materials used to make parts found in every cell phone are only available in Africa, Ward said. The continent’s 53 nations offer growing economic markets.
U.S. awareness of Africa’s importance and significance in the world will increase, Ward predicted. “We have not paid the type of attention [to Africa] that we ought to,” he said. In his former role as deputy commander of U.S. European Command and in other capacities, Ward witnessed the important role played by the National Guard’s State Partnership Program after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
“I saw [SPP] work so well in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain,” he said. “That model also works in Africa: sustained security engagement being conducted by young men and women who are combat-tested, proven veterans with energy, enthusiasm, wanting to contribute, making a difference and doing it on a continent where those who are the recipients of that association are thankful for it.”
Ward highlighted the work performed by National Guard members from California, New York, North Dakota and Vermont in Africa. Meanwhile, he said, a 900-strong Kansas Guard battalion based in Djibouti is “working in a brilliant and magnificent way.”
Ward said Kansas’ citizen-soldiers tell him they feel appreciated and express their personal satisfaction with a 97-percent reenlistment rate.
“We appreciate what our National Guard and Reserves do,” Ward said. “What you are doing … is important and it matters.”
Guard members and Reservists are integrated into Africom’s staff and are part of a seamless total force, Ward said. “I am proud to serve with them,” he added.
And, when African troops meet and train with U.S. troops “they just see the best in America, and the role that the National Guard and Reserves play … is absolutely critical,” Ward said.
“They see first and foremost an American that’s helping,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)