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American Forces Press Service

Army Commander Discusses Africa Mission, Training

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 – U.S. Army Africa and five East African countries are joining together in a multinational, globally resourced exercise focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Army Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa, discussed the Army's newest component command and its upcoming Natural Fire '10, a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise, in a Sept. 29 “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable.

Working with Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, U.S. Army Africa will conduct the exercise Oct. 16-25 in Uganda. It’s the largest Defense Department exercise in Africa in 2009.

Natural Fire will enhance U.S. and partner nations’ capabilities to work together in response to complex humanitarian and emergency disaster relief efforts, Garrett said. The exercise will focus on a variety of areas, including a pandemic influenza training scenario, field training exercises and humanitarian and civic action projects in northern Uganda that include medical, dental and engineering programs.

"U.S. Army Africa and our entire team here is very proud to be a part of Natural Fire '10, and I anticipate this will be a great exercise for all the participants," Garrett said.

The exercise will take place at three locations in Uganda: Entebbe, Kampala and Kitgum. At the first two sites, U.S. and African military leaders will participate in tabletop exercises dealing with emergencies in Africa, such as pandemic flu response. In Kitgum, the partnering countries will work on tasks that support disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. They also will provide medical and dental care at four health centers and government facilities, along with engineering projects at a primary school, a high school and a hospital, the general said.

He added that the joint task force headquarters, consisting of representatives from all six nations, will provide field and tabletop control for the exercise.

"Many of our engagement opportunities have been bilateral, so this is the first time for us all to get together as a group of partner nations to work together," Garrett said.

The general also discussed potential challenges, but said overcoming coordination and communication issues over extended distances will bring the partner nations closer and will serve as an important element in making the exercise a success.

“This exercise enhances mutual understanding and stability and security,” Garrett said. “It is forcing all the militaries to interact and look at strengths and weaknesses and shortcomings.”

U.S. Army Africa will be a reliable partner and will continue to be there over the long haul for U.S. friends in Africa, he added.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

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