LILONGWE - "This will put Malawi on the map," Malawi Defense Force Gen. Griffin "Spoon" Phiri said to planners during the final planning event for the African Land Forces Summit 2017, March 27.
Military planners from the U.S. and Malawi gathered here March 27-31 to finalize the details needed to support ALFS 17, scheduled to take place in May.
ALFS is an annual, weeklong seminar bringing together land force chiefs from across Africa for candid dialog to discuss and develop cooperative solutions to regional and trans-regional challenges and threats.
"This is not a small exercise," said MDF Brig. Gen. Paul Phiri, MDF chief of training.
While this is the first time Malawi will host the summit, it is not the first event cohosted by the Malawi Defense Force and the U.S. Army Africa.
In August the MDF hosted exercise Southern Accord 2016, a multinational tabletop exercise to discuss regional security challenges and enhance participants' capabilities to respond to natural disasters.
"We are all professionals. We may have very different cultures, our army cultures are different, but we are all dedicated to improving ourselves and our militaries," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth Moore, deputy commander for U.S. Army Africa.
Moore went on to say that one of the reasons Malawi was selected to host ALFS 17 is the MDF’s dedication to enhancing regional security and improving the professionalism of their force.
Malawi is a troop contributing country to the ongoing UN mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the MDF senior noncommissioned officer school helps to build capacity across African militaries, said Moore.
Since its inception, the Malawi Defense Force Sergeants Major Academy has accepted senior enlisted candidates from throughout southern Africa. This year, for the first time, senior noncommissioned officers from Nigeria were admitted.
The final planning event was the third in a series of planning events leading to ALFS and was the last time the U.S. and Malawi planners would meet in person to prepare for the summit. For the next month planners will continue to coordinate and refine their plans in preparation for the final event.
"It is still a planning session -- we have not closed our doors. We have most of the answers, but are open to new ideas and questions," said Spoon Phiri.
During previous events, planners worked together to prepare the overall framework to prepare logistical, communication, and security support for the summit. During the final planning event, they finalized the detailed plan for each of these areas.
"Our work this week will set the pace for the summit that will follow," said Paul Phiri.
U.S. and Malawi military planners visited each site where the summit will take place, coordinating contingency plans for each event during the summit.
The detailed planning was necessary to ensure that participants are not distracted from the summit by transportation plans, communication challenges, or routine medical incidents.
The theme for this year’s African Land Forces Summit is “Enhancing Capacity through Partnership in Africa.” Speakers from the U.S., Malawi and African partner nations will address topics such as standardizing forces and concepts, building logistics institutions, peacekeeping and peace support operations.
"With the planning that’s been conducted, I expect this to be a world class event," said Spoon Phiri.