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Air operations vital to CJTF-HOA mission

by MC1 Mary Popejoy
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs

4/21/2007 - DJIBOUTI, South Africa (AFNEWS) -- In the United States, airlines coordinate flights with the Federal Aviation Administration. In the Horn of Africa it's a little more complicated as flights cross several nations, all with different aviation rules.

What does it take to get flights from point A to point B within the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa? It takes the expertise and coordination of the CJTF-HOA J3 Air Operations staff to keep air travel running smoothly.

"We can't operate like in the U.S.," said Air Force 1st Lt. Ryan Schmid from CJTF-HOA J3 air operations. "The process is long, countries need to be informed and planning is critical to getting our aircraft off the ground."

If a flight needs to go to Kenya for example to drop off passengers or cargo, the J3 air operations staff has to first work with different organizations to gain approval.

"We coordinate with the country's government, the Department of Defense and Civil Aviation so everyone is informed of foreign aircraft through their airspace," said Schmid.

Before that same Kenya-bound aircraft takes off, it must have an approved clearance to not only fly through and land in Kenya, but Ethiopia as well because it has to fly through Ethiopian air space to get to its destination.

An essential part of this process is coordinating with the Country Command Element's and the embassies.

"If we had to do this via E-mail, fax, or mail directly with the host country, it would take a really long time so it's nice to have the CCE's involved so they can physically turn it in, get the face-to-face contact and make the phone call and track its progress," said Schmid. "Coordinating with the CCE's, embassies and the host country is vital to our mission."

And because we respect the rules already in place, it better helps us to be good neighbors in the Horn of Africa.

"We are in a host country that is surrounded by other host countries that let us fly over or into their air space when we need to perform certain missions," said Air Force Capt. Ernesto Herrera. "It is by their good graces we can do that, so as long as we continue to be good neighbors and strengthen the partnership we currently have we'll be able to continue to execute the CJTF-HOA mission," he said.

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is a unit of United States Central Command. The organization conducts operations and training to assist partner nations to combat terrorism in order to establish a secure environment and enable regional stability. More than 1,500 people from each branch of the U.S. military, civilian employees, Coalition forces and partner nations make up the CJTF-HOA organization. The area of responsibility for CJTF-HOA includes the countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. 

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