African Partnership Flight builds relations, interoperability

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ian Dean
  • Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs
Closing ceremonies commenced African Partnership Flight-Djibouti for more than 80 Airmen from six nations Feb. 11, at Djibouti Air Base.

The five-day event, co-hosted by U.S. Air Forces Europe -- Air Forces Africa and the Djibouti air force, brought together air forces from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the U.S. to strengthen relationships and share best practices.

"APF-Djibouti brings international Airmen together to discuss how we do business," said Brig. Gen. Mark Camerer, the USAFE - AFAFRICA director of plans, programs and analyses, during closing ceremonies. "It allows them to talk about their techniques, their tactics and their procedures so that if a crisis were to hit, we have the capability to work together more effectively and efficiently."

African Partnership Flight is U.S. Africa Command's premiere program to bring together partner nations to increase cooperation and interoperability, which fosters stability and security throughout the continent.

"African Partnership Flight is all about interoperability," said Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Leonard, a USAFE - AFAFRICA loadmaster. "Whether it is a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission, it is important for our air forces to have understanding and transparency beforehand, so when the time comes we can execute the mission."

U.S. Air Force advisors from USAFE-AFAFRICA and the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, facilitated a combination of group discussions and hands-on demonstrations covering core air force topics including cargo load planning, flight line security, crash and fire rescue, and aircraft maintenance.

As much as AFP-Djibouti was about sharing professional air force knowledge, it also provided a unique opportunity for partner nations to interact and build relationships.

"Africa Partnership Flight improves our understanding of each other's cultures," Leonard stated. "During this five-day event, our air forces have gained a better understanding of not only our operating procedures and aircraft, but also of our cultural backgrounds. We find even outside of the classroom we get a lot of social interaction and a chance to understand each other's cultures."

In addition to the cultural experiences providing a unique opportunity the groups are comprised of members from both officer and enlisted forces. This mixed-rank forum allowed for different perspectives to be shared.

"We had people from O-5 to E-5, so we get information from both and operational and tactical level," said Kenya air force Lt. Musoma Lusiola. "That way, the lieutenant colonel understands how the sergeant feels when leading the soldiers in the field. The sergeant can understand better how the lieutenant colonel will be able to help him. The interactions between different countries, with different experiences and different ranks cannot be overemphasized. "

Building these types of relationships is critical for the future of East Africa. With an ever-changing regional environment, it is imperative that partner nations are prepared for any challenges they may face.

"Our world is getting bigger, not smaller," Camerer noted. "And so, by expanding these relationships I think we have taken a unique approach to strengthen security in the region."