General William "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, made his first visit to the newly renovated headquarters of 17th Air Force, also known as U.S. Air Forces Africa, August 11, 2009. Located in Ramstein Air Base in Germany, 17th Air Force initially stood up on October 1, 2008 as the Air Force component of U.S. Africa Command.
After inspecting the building and visiting the various duty sections, Ward held a commander's call with 17th Air Force staff at the nearby U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE) Conference Center. He congratulated the 17th Air Force on its leading role of providing support for President Barack Obama's recent visit to Ghana and read passages from a letter thanking 17th AF from U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Donald G. Teitelbaum.
"U.S. Africa Command is our nation's signal, a statement that Africa matters," Ward said. "They [Africans] know that they have friends to help build their capabilities."
Ward noted that three officers from Burkina Faso were present at the briefing. The guests are the first-ever members of the West African nation's military to tour Ramstein and were there to participate in a week-long familiarization course on base security. The general highlighted this exchange of knowledge as typical of the kind of long-term engagements necessary to build good relations between the United States and its African partners.
"This business of sustained security engagement is not something that happens today," General Ward said. "It will come to fruition in five, 10, 20 years." He characterized this approach as "refreshing, rewarding and lasting."
"We are helping African nations be all they can be," he said.