By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
A maritime course, which brought together senior military leaders from 28 nations to discuss challenges facing the security environment in Africa, concluded at the U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters in Naples, Italy, Dec. 7, 2018.
The Africa Combined Force Maritime Component Command course, a weeklong course facilitated by the Naval War College, provided European, African, and North and South American naval leaders a forum to examine the security challenges facing African maritime forces.
Referencing that there are 38 African coastal countries, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser said, “The foundation for African efforts on the continent are activities that underscore strengthening mutually beneficial networks between the U.S. and our partners.
“Not only does this course train senior African Maritime Leadership and synchronize the delivery of maritime training and equipping activities, it also offers a forum for our African partners, Euro-Atlantic donor partners, and U.S. government donor stakeholders to coordinate, synchronize, and de-conflict plans and activities,” he said.
Through case studies, breakout sessions and lectures from senior leaders and facilitators, participants were able to learn from each other and discuss solutions toward a common goal, as well as create and renew partnerships.
“The first realization is that maritime security is so important that no one can do it alone,” said Cameroonian Navy Cmdr. Ngonge Sone Emmanuel. “A course like this brings together leaders. We don’t only exchange ideas, but we get to know each other on a personal level so that when we have threats we know who to call.”
Discussions largely focused on gaining a common understanding of maritime issues surrounding Africa, and particularly discussed issues specific to each area of the continent. Among the briefers was Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to the African Union, who spoke on ways to promote peace and stability while supporting sustainable economic development.
“The African Union is an amalgamation of the 55 countries of Africa who work together to find the best practices that they can share with each other whether it be on issues of peace and security, economic development or health,” said Leonard. “It’s a really special relationship, it takes a very fulsome view of peace and security, it’s about a lot of other facets of a country’s development and it’s a great pleasure to work with the African Union.”
In additional to lectures and case studies, a big takeaway for the participants are the relationships formed and strengthened through group interaction.
“The discussions and facetime we get and the time we spend together is very valuable because they get to know me and I get to know all of them,” said Royal Norwegian Navy Chief of Operations, Rear Adm. Ygnve Skoglund. “We’re building a network. If they have a problem they can call me and if I see something that I need their expertise in I can call them.”
The value of courses such as this can be seen in exercises, operations, and senior leader engagements with allied and partner nations to improve the effectiveness of Express Series exercises such as Obangame, Phoenix and Cutlass, and operations such as Operation Junction Rain.
“We are assisting our African partners and friends with maintaining their maritime security with the tools and the infrastructure that they have in their countries,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. “We’ve had conversations this week about a lot of areas that we can cooperate within the maritime domain off North Africa, East Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. Through courses like this one and the Express Series exercises we are helping African maritime nations to solve African problems — African Solutions to African Problems.”
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, oversees joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.