African Air Chiefs Symposium focuses on mobility
By 1st Lt. Ben Sowers, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa
/ Published May 17, 2016
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- Air chiefs from 26 nations gathered here May 9-13 for the largest African Air Chiefs Symposium in its six-year history.
The purpose of the symposium is to create a forum for air chiefs from across the African continent to come together to address common issues, cultivate relationships and emphasize cooperation. Mobility was a primary focus point this year along with the special role of airpower in the vast continent of Africa.
“All of the events that we do in Africa and conferences like this make sure that we have enough touch points with these countries to let them know that we are interested in their challenges,” said Gen. Frank Gorenc, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. “We’re interested in their capabilities, we’re interested in the things that we aspire to do together and we look for the ability to, together, handle some of the challenges that comes with the capability that is able to be brought up overnight.”
This is the first African Air Chiefs Symposium that was not held on the African continent.
“Because the focus of the event is air mobility, it made sense that we hosted it at Ramstein Air Base,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Blackwell, the USAFE-AFAFRICA branch chief of international affairs for Africa. “It is the cornerstone of mobility for the U.S. Air Force outside of the United States so it makes sense that this is where we would host it.”
The U.S. and Mauritania co-hosted this year’s symposium. Last year, the symposium was held in Nouakchott, Mauritania, with 18 African nations attending.
Throughout the symposium, there were several roundtable discussions and breakout sessions, giving air chiefs the opportunity to discuss regional issues together. Some topics discussed were mobility strategies, force development and airfield management.
As part of the symposium, the group had an immersion trip to the Verdun battlefield to learn about European history. While at Verdun, the air chiefs learned about the soldiers from Africa who fought in the battle.
This symposium was the first opportunity for many air chiefs to talk with their counterparts from other African nations. It was the first symposium for Brig. Gen. Charles Karamba, the Rwanda Air Force Chief of Staff.
“The African Air Chief Symposium is an important organization although it’s kind of a non-formal organization. It helps us come together. We get to know each other,” Karamba said. “There is terrorism in most of our regions, so we get together, share the threats that we face, share the challenges that we face as far as air mobility is concerned and of course it helps us understand the capabilities each of us have.”
One of the pinnacle moments of the symposium was the signing of the Association of African Air Chiefs Charter, which encourages members to seek opportunities to cooperate and collaborate to improve and support air operations across Africa. Eleven nations signed the charter this year, which is the highest number of nations to sign at any symposium.
The 26 countries that attended were Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.