Ten journalists from Angola and Mozambique spent a week in Stuttgart learning about U.S. Africa Command.
Along with representatives from U.S. Embassy staffs in Angola and Mozambique, the journalists and a military public affairs officer were invited by AFRICOM Public Affairs and selected by embassy staff to participate in a five-day program designed to enhance journalists’ understanding of the command’s mission on the continent, conducted July 21-25, 2014 at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany.
AFRICOM staff delivered presentations on a variety of subjects, such as the numerous health and humanitarian assistance programs, and programs executed by component commands.
Topics of particular interest to the group were the State Partnership Program which currently partners 10 African countries with the National Guards of U.S. states, and the Africa Partnership Station, the focus of which is partnership building and cooperation among governments and organizations who have a shared interest in strengthening maritime governance around the continent.
Sandra Franzblau, a legal advisor with AFRICOM, presented information about legal engagements on the continent. Discussions about the how the rule of law enables militaries to protect civilian citizenry generated a lot of questions from delegation members.
“I’m highly satisfied and surprised by the transparency we are seeing here today – I did not expect this. The first thing I observed was that the discussions are very open and frank – you tell it like it is as far as AFRICOM is concerned,” said the senior press advisor for the national ministry of defense for Mozambique, Maj. Benjamin Marcos Chabualo.
“I know there are some problems with getting data and I know you are working on getting answers to us. As far as journalists go, I knew they’d be curious – and that’s a good thing. The result with be good because they will have facts,” said Chabualo.
Erik Threet, lead for AFRICOM programs for disaster preparedness planning and training in HIV and AIDS prevention, was asked why the U.S. Department of Defense is interested in helping with HIV/AIDS in Africa. “Heath and security are related. You can’t provide security without a healthy military,” said Threet.
AFRICOM’s Chief of Media Operations in the Office of Public Affairs, Ben Benson, manages the media delegation visits for the command. “We are always trying to demystify AFRICOM for our publics. The visit program enables us to work with journalists who are highly regarded in their respective countries. During the visits we are able to engage directly with them and clarify a whole range of issues,” said Benson.
“We have found, many months later, that journalists who participated write intelligently about our security cooperation. We have also seen them counter false rumors about AFRICOM. We believe the media visit program is a win-win for all involved,” said Benson.
Prior media delegation visits since the inception of the program in 2009 included journalists from Libya, Senegal, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria and Mauritania.
Besides receiving briefings from AFRICOM staff, the Angola and Mozambique media delegation visited local area, to include the American Forces Network station at Robinson Barracks, Stuttgart Army Airfield, meet with Stuttgart city hall officials, and ended the week with a question and answer session with General David Rodriguez, AFRICOM’s commanding general.
For more in APS, visit the U.S. Naval Forces Africa Web Special on APS.
For more about the State Partnership Program, click on these links: