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U.S. Army Africa supports combat operations for first time

Mar 31, 2011

By Maj. Junel Jeffrey, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs

ABOARD USS MOUNT WHITNEY - For Army Lt. Col Leamond "Bo" Stuart, a 40-year-old Special Forces soldier from Atlanta, Ga., the order to deploy happened fast and the prospect of serving on a ship seemed like an interesting opportunity.

"My wife was a little disappointed that I was going to be gone on yet another deployment," said Stuart. "We really didn't have much time to think about it."

The deployment order arrived within days and the task at hand was quite unique. Stuart didn't really know exactly what to expect, where he was going or how long he would be away. All he knew was that this deployment, in support of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa-U.S. Sixth Fleet, would be unlike any assignment he'd ever had.

"It is always difficult when there is little information on where you're going and when you're coming home," said Sgt. First Class Steven Terrell, a 36-year-old Detroit, Mi human resources manager. "We make it through by staying close and supporting each other."

Stuart, Terrell, and approximately 60 soldiers packed their duffle bags, said goodbye to family and friends, and traveled to Gaeta, Italy, where they joined more than 300 airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and Sailors embarked upon the USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC20), headquarters of Operation Joint Task Force-Odyssey Dawn.

"I was actually excited to have the opportunity to serve on a Navy ship," said Stuart, a task force liaison officer permanently assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy. "It is a new experience for most soldiers."

U.S. Africa Command, the regional command that oversees and coordinates U.S. military activities in Africa, established the joint task force to provide operational and tactical command and control for emergency evacuations, humanitarian relief, and potential future missions in support of the international response to unrest in Libya.

With a growing coalition of more than 13 nations including France, Great Britain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, Joint Task Force-Odyssey Dawn set out to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNCR) 1973, which "authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces."

"I think that JTF-Odyssey Dawn was a resounding success," Stuart said. "We [the Army] had planners in every part of the JTF and you could see results of our work in all of the JTF's products."

"Overall, my experience has been very good, although challenging," said Maj. Scott Sendmeyer, a 39-year-old Indianapolis, In. native. "Having the entire JTF staff on the ship enabled rapid team formulation and also mitigated many outside distractions."

An Army Engineer Corps officer by trade, Sendmeyer led the overall Campaign Development Team, a group of planners responsible for organizing operations according to task force objectives and desired effects. He says that while working as a joint plans officer was a great learning experience, life on a ship was very different from army life.

"I never thought of serving from aboard a ship, and it has proven to truly be an opportunity that I shall cherish," Terrell said. "I know that I'm a much better human resources manager after serving in such a challenging billet."

Terrell, who served as the JTF's resident expert on personnel tracking, U.S. Army finance and personnel procedures, and strength management, says being deployed aboard a ship was an eye-opening experience that showed him how the U.S. Navy operates.

"Getting to participate in this operation feels like a privilege," said 23-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Nichell Sauls of Sonora, Ca, a military intelligence analyst also assigned to U.S. Army Africa. "Working with all of the different services gives a new perspective of how things come together to get results. Seeing a piece of the world from a new angle has been amazing."

At the conclusion of Operation Odyssey Dawn, U.S. forces fulfilled a supporting role in the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector, charged with the mission to "to reduce the flow of arms, related material and mercenaries to Libya, as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1973."

"I really got a chance to see how a large JTF works in a multinational environment," said Stuart. "It was so interesting to work so close to national policy-level decisions. It was a great experience and I am really glad I got to be part of it."

Stuart says being able to watch the news and see how the efforts of the JTF helped improve the lives of others was an awe-inspiring experience.

"A few short days ago, the Libyan people were being systematically attacked by their own government," Stuart said. "The work of the JTF has alleviated the suffering of the average Libyan citizen, which is certainly a worthy goal."

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