RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Approximately 300 U.S. service members and other personnel from the U.S. Africa Command attended the annual Regional Synchronization Working Group symposium kickoff Nov. 14, here.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander, AFRICOM, gave the opening remarks for the conference.
The five-day event hosted security cooperation leaders from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other personnel.
The purpose of the annual gathering of leaders was to synchronize their efforts to build defense capabilities, respond to crisis, and deter and defeat transnational threats and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.
“The RSWG is part of AFRICOM’s annual development cycle and is a key milestone in our planning process,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, AFRICOM spokesman. “It helps drive updates to AFRICOM’s theater campaign plan and country cooperation plans, which serve as the ‘blueprints’ for our Security Force Assistance efforts with our international partners.”
The leaders within AFRICOM are geographically separated, so the conference provides the opportunity for them to meet face-to-face and provide feedback to their commander.
“The RSWG allows us to pull the AFRICOM team from the continent and Europe together with our Stuttgart team to lay out what we want to do in the coming fiscal year and how we will do it,” Falvo said. “This allows for an open and frank dialogue on how our SFA efforts can be tailored to best serve each nation that AFRICOM partners with on the continent.”
Bringing all the agencies together can be difficult, but those who plan the event feel it is a worthwhile cause.
“I think it is critical to have all these agencies in one room,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Lowe, RSWG coordinator.
With four months under his belt as the AFRICOM commander, Waldhauser spoke of his plan to continue with the current strategy for the next year, then work on adjusting it over the following year. He emphasized the importance of rethinking the meaning of the phrase “long term.”
“We have to shift our thinking beyond a fiscal year, or a tour, or even an administration,” Falvo said. “In other words, we need to align our efforts with other partner nations, with our diplomatic and development colleagues, and with the objectives of our African partner nations across multiple administrations. If we don't, then we risk applying our resources in an unfocused way.”
AFRICOM plays an important role in stabilizing the continent, and the symposium is a key aspect of that effort.
“The RSWG is an important part of our effort - along with our diplomatic, defense, and development partners - to help build African institutions capable of deterring the spread of extremism, protecting their populations, enabling economic prosperity, and expanding the rule of law and human rights,” Falvo said.
The RSWG symposium concluded on Nov. 18.