Flintlock 10 Begins in Burkina Faso

Eric S. Elliott
U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, May 4, 2010 — A mid-morning ceremony in Ouagadougou, May 3, 2010, marked the beginning of Flintlock 10, an annual exercise that focuses on improving military interoperability and capacity-building of participating militaries from Northern and Western Africa, Europe and the United States. The exercise is conducted by Special Operations Command Africa's Joint Special Operations Task Force – Trans Sahara and will run through May 23.

"The overall objectives of the exercise are to build and enhance the military interoperability of select African, European, and U.S. forces at the operational and tactical levels," said Ambassador J. Anthony Holmes, U.S. Africa Command's deputy to the commander for Civil-Military Activities. "To build enduring relationships and trust with each other that will enable us to find mutual solutions to some of the issues that breed discontent and extremism and share ideas and methodologies that can create an environment in which hope and opportunity have a chance to flourish."

Flintlock is part of an annual exercise program USAFRICOM conducts with African partner nations in Northern and Western Africa. This exercise program strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information, and develops interoperability among the partner nations of the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership. As part of this program, Flintlock helps to achieve USAFRICOM objectives for military-to-military training and multinational regional cooperation.

"Flintlock 2010 represents a remarkable opportunity to seize in response to the threats posed by terrorist organizations in the region," said Burkina Faso's Defence Minister Yero Boly. "We hope this military exercise will strengthen the new wave of cooperation in the field of defense and security in the region and that will improve the capacity and the confidence in formulating planning and preventing crisis."

This year's exercise consists of activities and events in locations in several different countries throughout the region.

It will include the establishment a deployed Joint Special Operations Task Force to conduct real-time coordination with all participating nations. A Multi-National Coordination Center will be established here which will serve as a focal point for multi-national information sharing as well as the planning of synchronized operations. The MCC will conduct academic training for all participants, culminating in a command post exercise involving instruction, scenario development and a control group to enhance the participants' ability to work collaboratively toward solving a shared regional crisis involving illegal activities which disrupt stability and security.

The tactical portion of Flintlock 10 will consist of small-unit combined training and activities involving U.S. and partner nation militaries throughout the region. The exercise will also include Medical and Veterinary Civic Action Programs that will be conducted to provide the populations in rural areas health information and medical care.

"I believe what's important for us is what we are going to gain from the strengthening of our military capabilities," said Minister Boly. "It's a great opportunity for our armed forces to share experiences and knowledge with armed forces of partner nations."

An important objective of this exercise is to promote the interoperability of the militaries of partner nations. Future operations in the region will involve the combined multinational militaries of several different nations. The interoperability of African nations will be critical to successful African peacekeeping operations and provide regional stability in the greater security efforts on the continent.

" The goal is to improve the ability of our collective forces to achieve this interoperability by overcoming potential tactical and technical incompatibilities while operating throughout the large expanse of the Trans-Sahara region," said Ambassador Holmes. "Ultimately, we will enhance each other's capabilities to communicate, coordinate, and operate against those elements that strive to destabilize the governments and harm the peoples of the Trans-Sahara."

To this end, Flintlock 10 includes more than 1,200 participants and observers from 16 nations and the African Union.

But true interoperability is more than just compatible systems and procedures; it's also developing a cadre of professionals who know how to work with each other.

"I anticipate learning a great deal from my African and European partners as we work together throughout this exercise in the spirit of cooperation," said U.S. Army Colonel Kurt Crytzer, commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force - Trans Sahara and U.S. commander for the Multi-National Coordination Center. "This exercise is designed to build and foster relationships among our nations working through a myriad of issues, significant and unique to the region. Getting to know each other, listening and learning from each other and mutually supporting each other go a long way to understanding the different challenges we face."

Through exercises such as Flintlock, the United States provides military training opportunities to foster relationships of peace, security and cooperation throughout Trans-Saharan region.

"My goal is that we all grow from Flintlock and we return to our home stations being better leaders than when we arrived," said Crytzer. "I have no doubt I will not be disappointed."