News: National Guard boosts AFRICOM’s partnership capacity
Story by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
STUTTGART, Germany -- National Guard adjutants general and Defense Department leaders here this week are hearing how the Guard’s 27-year-old State Partnership Program is boosting the partnership capacity of one of the nation’s newest combatant commands.
“The benefits … are many and impressive,” Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said in his 2010 posture statement.
Adjutants general whose states are partnered with countries within AFRICOM’s 53-nation area of responsibility and leaders including Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Dennis McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs, are here for the 2010 State Partnership Program Conference hosted by AFRICOM. Ward is scheduled to speak to the group today.
The SPP started with European Command partners in 1993 following the collapse of the Iron Curtain. EUCOM spawned AFRICOM in 2007, and there are now eight National Guard states partnered with African nations.
State partnerships foster military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian cooperation.
“The [SPP] delivers programs and activities that build broad capabilities with our African partners,” Ward said. “The habitual relationships this builds adds tremendous value to our efforts. This program is very valuable to [AFRICOM], and we look forward to expanding it as our African partners request greater participation.”
Ward’s area of responsibility is 3.5 times the size of the continental United States.
In fact, the continental United States and India and all of western Europe and Argentina and China would fit in the African continent with room to spare. It can take AFRICOM officials up to two days of flying to reach countries within the AOR, and a flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Johannesburg, South Africa, is like flying from Frankfurt to Los Angeles.
The Sahara Desert alone is larger than the continental U.S.
Africa includes 53 countries that are home to a billion people from than 800 ethnic groups who speak more than 1,000 languages, and its population growth rate is the world’s highest.
The SPP is one piece of a joint approach to Africa that starts with the vision of the president and his state and defense secretaries reflected in the combatant command’s strategy and mission.
Speaking in Ghana last year, President Obama said the United States has four priorities: supporting strong and sustainable democracies and good governance; fostering sustained economic growth and development; increasing access to quality health and education and helping to prevent, mitigate and resolve armed conflict.
Urging funding and further development of programs such as the SPP, Ward said, “The United States achieves its greatest effect when all U.S. government agencies work collaboratively in applying the tools of diplomacy, development and defense to meet our national security objectives.”
Current National Guard pairings in Africa are: California with Nigeria; Michigan with Liberia; New York with South Africa; North Carolina with Botswana; North Dakota with Ghana; Utah with Morocco; Vermont with Senegal and Wyoming with Tunisia.
Conflict, violent extremism, narcotics trafficking, piracy, disease and economic development are among issues AFRICOM tackles on the large, diverse and complex continent.
“The United States and our African partners have strong mutual interests in promoting security and stability on the continent of Africa,” Ward said. “The more the countries of Africa work together, the greater the likelihood that the continent will achieve lasting stability. … Increasing African partner capability to identify and interdict threats emanating from the continent enhances the security of the … homeland.
“Enhancing the capacity of African forces … allows the United States to use its forces for other operations.”
National Guard states offer a smorgasbord of experience ranging from tackling the consequences of natural and manmade disasters to training and maintaining a professional NCO corps.
The Guard’s contributions in Africa range from battalion-sized formations from Kansas serving year-long deployment in the Horn of Africa to individual augmentees assisting AFRICOM for a month or less.
The Utah Guard provides KC-135 Stratotankers and personnel for African Lion, an annual Marine Corps-led exercise with Morocco. Utah also is a rich resource for National Guard linguistic specialists, who can serve as interpreters.
Tennessee, which does not yet even have an African partner, works with Nigeria to rebuild C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Wyoming helps Tunisia use radar for border patrol, while North Carolina shows Botswana how Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems can fight the range fires that threaten that nation’s wealth of wildlife.