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Former commander visits CJTF-HOA, gives insight into future

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071217-10
Release Date: 12/17/2007 3:06:00 PM

By By Army Sgt. Charles Siler, CJTF-HOA Public Affairs

DJIBOUTI (NNS) -- A former commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa returned to Camp Lemonier Dec. 14 to visit Marines and talk to them about their mission and the direction of the Corps and the task force in the Global War on Terror.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command; I Marine Expeditionary Force, commanding general, spoke with the Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 and 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion about their roles providing aerial support and security for CJTF-HOA.

"You guys are doing a great job out here," said Helland. "I know you get told that over and over again, but I used to command this place, CJTF-HOA, and I know what kind of things go on here. I've stood out on 'Scorpion Gate,' I've been in every one of your outposts, except for that fancy new one with air conditioning. When I was here all we could do was think about air conditioning."

Helland commanded CJTF-HOA in 2004 and 2005, when the camp and the mission were led by the Marine Corps. Since then, the camp and the mission have undergone a number of evolutions; moving from 'Capture and Kill' to 'Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability,' and the expansion of the camp to improve the quality of life for the troops stationed here.

"I know we've been here for a number of years, since 2002, but every time I come here things get better," said Helland. "And that is because of you. Things have stabilized on the eastern coast of Africa, and the transition to Africa Command will just enhance the capabilities that you all have here now."

The transition of responsibilities on the continent from CJTF-HOA and U.S. Central Command, U.S. Europe Command and U.S. Pacific Command to the new U.S. Africa Command began officially on Oct. 4, 2007. AFRICOM is scheduled to assume full responsibility Oct. 4, 2008.

AFRICOM, will be structured as an inter-agency command with State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development officers filling positions usually reserved for uniformed personnel. A great deal of AFRICOM's mission and focus will be determined by the countries in their area of responsibility -- those on the African continent.

CJTF-HOA is positioned to serve as a model for AFRICOM, because CJTF-HOA's mission has evolved to revolve around their partner nations, and servicemembers already work hand-in-hand with State Department and U.S. AID officials on humanitarian assistance and military-to-military training programs.

The impact of U.S. and coalition forces' efforts in the region aren't limited to Africa. Increased stability, increased security and improved standards of living for Africans brought about by coalition programs, hampers opportunities for extremism and extremist ideologies to spread.

The conditions established by coalition forces, in coordination with partner nations, limit the opportunity for terrorist organizations to hide among and recruit from the local population, reducing the threat of violence across the continent and world.

"The mission in the Horn of Africa is very important," said Helland. "Why? Because we work in coordination with all of our partner nations across Africa and Yemen. If we don't keep those positive relationships going over the next couple of years, the chances are that the relationships will fall off."

While talking with Marines about the focus of CJTF-HOA, Helland took the opportunity to update them on the current tempo of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and give them a long-term outlook on the progress in the Global War on Terror.

"The Taliban is in retreat," said Helland. "The leadership of the al-Qaida movement in Iraq is being forced out. The senior leadership is being killed or captured, which means a younger movement is coming in and they are making mistakes; and when they make mistakes they get killed and captured as well. Across the spectrum we are being successful. How long are we going to keep doing this? It won't be months. It will probably be years and years. I suspect we will be in Iraq for at least two more years and in Afghanistan for probably three more years. What level of involvement we will have I do not know."

The successes being realized by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are mirrored by the successes coalition forces are having in their non-kinetic battle against extremism in the Horn of Africa.

"In military circles, it is referred to as 'Phase 0,' where the coalition partners of the world come together and support those nations who need support and assistance and facilitate them as they grow to provide stability and security with a continued presence," said Helland.

Phase 0 is just one phase of a new joint operating concept. Phase 0 is the 'shaping' phase that deals with the prevention of conflict by building partnership capacity, influencing non-partners and potential adversaries, mitigating the underlying causes of conflict and extremism; and setting the conditions that enable rapid action when military intervention is required.

CJTF-HOA has already assimilated the new JOC into its operational models. The concept is a new way to visualize military operations as part of a larger political concept.

"I think the combination of the coalition forces and the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps in support of CJTF-HOA have done a superb job and I couldn't be prouder of them, couldn't be more excited for their future. They are doing one heck of a mission out here, being successful at every turn and engaging at every turn. They are present when they need to be present, and they demonstrate presence with a purpose when they conduct their Phase 0 operations. I think they are a tremendous success and will continue to be a tremendous success under U.S. Africa Command as we move on into the future and as they set the standard for the way forward."

The CJTF-HOA mission is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism.

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