It seems the years come and go just like a news flash. For U.S. Africa Command, year 2014 is not an exception. The year started off just like 2013 ended…in a flash and very busy.
AFRICOM Year in Review from January to December brings you the highlights of top stories, images and events of 2014.
In the first week of January 2014, Marines landed in South Sudan to relocate personnel from the U.S. Embassy due to a deteriorating security situation. Elsewhere, soldiers from the newly formed East African Response Force continued to reinforce the embassy in Juba. At the request of the African Union and French Government, U.S. Air Force C-17’s landed in Rwanda to support efforts to prevent violence in the Central African Republic. The aircraft delivered 850 Rwandan soldiers and more than 1,000 tons of equipment over the next several weeks.
Training was the theme of February. In Niger, Flintlock 2014 kicked off with more than 1,000 troops from 12 African and NATO nations coming together with the goal of increasing interoperability in security, counterterrorism and humanitarian and disaster assistance.
Also, in Guinea, Chad and Malawi, U.S. soldiers spent the month training more than 4,000 African troops in peacekeeping operations and border security. And on the high seas, naval forces from 22 nations came together for Obangame Express - the largest at-sea exercise to ever take place in the Gulf of Guinea.
In Tanzania, AFRICOM brought together medical professionals to help them lay out a plan to handle a pandemic influenza outbreak that could potentially kill thousands.
Eight years ago four Djiboutian soldiers heard a crash and rushed to the rescue. Of the 12 Marines aboard the two helicopters that collided over the Gulf of Aden, ten would perish. The two survivors would have drowned had it not been for these brave Africans. In 2014, these men were finally recognized and presented the Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service.According to the Commander of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of African, the Djiboutian soldiers “serve as the very foundation of friendship, shred understanding and trust between our two strong and great nations.”
AFRICOM took time in April to mark World Malaria Day, a disease that claims 500 million lives each year, or one child every minute with the majority of deaths occurring in Africa.
On the African continent, a badly needed health clinic opened in Angola thanks to money from the AFRICOM Humanitarian Assistance fund. The clinic now sees up to 200 patients a day. AFRICOM expanded its State Partnership Program in April with the addition of Togo, building a relationship between that nation and the North Dakota National Guard which also in April celebrated its 10th year of working with the nation of Ghana.
The month ended with AFRICOM’s commander, Gen. David Rodriguez, joining Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense, at a Pentagon Press Conference.
According to Gen. Rodriguez, “Africa’s expanding security challenges make it vitally important that we align our resources with our priorities, leveraging partnerships and increasing our operation flexibility.” Come fall of 2014, this mindset would set AFRICOM up for one of its greatest humanitarian success stories.
With the arrival of spring, AFRICOM also celebrated the arrival of dozens of African journalists, all gathering in Garmisch, Germany, to hear from the commander of AFRICOM, where he answered all their questions about AFRICOM and its mission.
Summer kicked off with U.S. Marines heading to Senegal for Western Accord 2014. The annual exercise brings together the Economic Community of West African States and partner nations to train in peacekeeping operations. Meantime, U.S. Army soldiers were teaming up with the Burundi National Defense Force to increase their ability to save lives on the battlefield.
The Office of Public Affairs hosted a media delegation of 20 African journalists from Angola and Mozambique who visited the Command’s headquarters in Stuttgart. AFRICOM also conducted exercise Africa Lion in Garmisch, Germany and welcomed first time participants from Madagascar, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. The month ended with a real world crisis and a flawlessly executed operation by AFRICOM - at the request of the State Department, and with the approval of the President, AFRICOM coordinated the relocation of 150 Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, transporting them through the desert into Tunisia. By the end of the day on July 27, 2014, all personnel were safe and no longer in harm’s way.
With summer coming to an end and keeping balance in mind, AFRICOM set aside time for a day of fun. The annual AFRICOM Olympics took place on August 8 bringing together the entire command for a day of games and camaraderie on Kelley Field.
While each directorate put up a tough fight, it was the team from Marine Corps Forces Africa taking home the top prize. And speaking of the Marines, that very next week AFRICOM escorted ten senior African military officers to San Diego for a visit to Camp Pendleton. Extending the learning environment beyond the classroom, the African’s got to watch Marines training up close and personal.
September started out on a positive note; AFRICOM hosting its first ever signing of an Acquisition Cross Servicing Agreement between the United States and Chad.
But a deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa was dominating the headlines and a worldwide cry was being issued for the United States to help.
In mid-September, President Obama ordered AFRICOM to stand-up a Joint Force Command headquarters in Liberia to support the United States Agency for International Development-led effort in combating an Ebola outbreak which had already claimed more than 2,200 lives. Within days of that announcement, wheels were already in motion to offer assistance. Fifteen Navy Seabees were sent to Liberia to conduct site surveys for constructing hospitals and training facilities. U.S. Air Force Airmen loaded planes with specially trained medical personnel and a modular medical treatment center. At the AFRICOM headquarters the staff was working overtime, long into the night to ensure progress was being made… and to save lives.
Across West Africa, as the number of confirmed Ebola deaths exceeded 4,500, the degree of support increased. In addition to standing up a headquarters for Operation United Assistance in Monrovia, Liberia, Gen. Rodriguez said “We also placed two additional mobile medical labs into operation last week, significantly increasing the capability for rapidly diagnosing Ebola. We are also establishing a facility capable of training health care support workers, enabling health care workers to safely provide direct medical care to patients.”
As each day passed, more supplies, equipment, and people arrived – rapidly building to a projected force of 4,000 boots on the ground by the end of the year. By the end of October, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky of the 101st Airborne Division assumed command from Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, commander of U.S. Army Africa who laid the groundwork for success and clearing the way for 101st Airborne Division to be the lead element for Operation United Assistance.
Progress continued to build into November with the opening of the first of 17 ETUs or Ebola Treatment Units. It took soldiers from the 902nd Engineering Battalion 22-days to build the first facility. A second ETU specifically for infected medical workers, built by Navy Seabees, also opened.
Supplies continued to arrive; more volunteers were being trained, and finally, the number of confirmed cases and deaths was starting to level off. Progress was being made at such a rapid pace by the 2,200 U.S. troops in West Africa, Maj. Gen. Volesky announced on Nov. 24, 2014, that he wouldn’t need a force of 4,000 and could get the job done with 1,000 less. Outside of West Africa, however, there was still fear about the spread of the virus even though there was minimal contact with the public, none with actual patients, and not a single service member tested positive for the virus.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced redeploying troops would spend 21 days in controlled monitoring.
December saw a more positive outlook for the people of Liberia. People were once again coming out of their homes and filling the streets, carrying signs to thank the international community for their support. And while the headlines continued to be dominated by the Ebola story, AFRICOM could once again focus on other issues like sponsoring a three week intelligence course for the Burundian Army… training with the Nigerian military in maritime security… and partnering with forces from Uganda to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
2014 was a busy year and a year that no one will forget. AFRICOM demonstrated team mentality dedicated to mission accomplishment via a whole-of-government approach to everything we do. And now that we’re done looking back, it’s time to look forward with confidence that 2015 will be just as busy… just as successful and just as rewarding.
For the "2014 Year in Review" Video, click here.