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Air Forces Africa Visits Botswana, Emphasizing Partnership with Embassy Team, State Department
For 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) Commander Major General Ron Ladnier, building partnerships with countries in Africa means making regular contact. That philosophy led the General and members of his 17th AF staff to touch down in Gaborone,
GABORONE, Botswana - Major General Ronald Ladnier (left), commander of
17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) and T.M. Paledi, commander of the Air Arm, Botswana Defense Force, prepare to depart Thebephatshwa Air Base March 10, 2010 after touring the installation. The two Generals and their staffs discussed the ongoing cooperation between the BDF and AFAFRICA during Ladnier's senior leader engagement in the country March 9-11. Following the Generals are AFAFRICA Foreign Policy Advisor Brent Bohne, and Army Lieutenant Colonel William M. Wyatt, U.S. Embassy Office of Security Cooperation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Jim Fisher)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: GABORONE, Botswana - Major General Ronald Ladnier (left), commander of 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) and T.M. Paledi, commander of the Air Arm, Botswana Defense Force, prepare to depart Thebephatshwa Air Base March 10, 2010 after touring the installation. The two Generals and their staffs discussed the ongoing cooperation between the BDF and AFAFRICA during Ladnier's senior leader engagement in the country March 9-11. Following the Generals are AFAFRICA Foreign Policy Advisor Brent Bohne, and Army Lieutenant Colonel William M. Wyatt, U.S. Embassy Office of Security Cooperation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Jim Fisher) Download full-resolution version
For 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) Commander Major General Ron Ladnier, building partnerships with countries in Africa means making regular contact. That philosophy led the General and members of his 17th AF staff to touch down in Gaborone, Botswana, March 9, 2010, for a senior leader engagement.

"Visiting is a vital part of maintaining a friendship," the General said. "Botswana is a valued partner for Air Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and it was important to take the time to catch up with our friends in the [Botswana Defence Force]."

In addition to renewing friendships with the BDF, AFAFRICA made spending time with U.S. Ambassador to Botswana Stephen J. Nolan and the embassy team a top priority.

"This visit was not only a great example of partnership with the Batswana, but with our Department of State partners at the embassy," the General said.

This was Ladnier's second visit to Gaborone since June of 2009, when the southern African country's relationship with AFAFRICA was firmly established. He met with BDF senior leadership to discuss aircraft maintenance training, supply and related issues, and got feedback on the series of engagements that have taken place since the June 2009 visit. AFAFRICA has worked with the BDF on issues ranging from maintenance and training to HIV/AIDS prevention and enlisted development.

"We always talk about the importance of listening and learning, and every senior leader engagement is based on that premise," Ladnier said. "Now we have an established relationship with Botswana and the BDF, but that doesn't mean that we are done listening. My question upon arrival is still 'how can we help? What can we work together on?' And also, how have our engagements worked out thus far?"

The visitors also employed the listening and learning principle at the embassy. Because AFAFRICA and U.S. Africa Command work in close coordination with the U.S. State Department when conducting engagements in Africa, the embassy was the group's first stop after arriving.

While engagements are generally based on air linkage and common interests centered on aviation, the embassies understand the intricacies of the particular nation. They can provide invaluable context for engagement, the General said.

"The Department of State has the lead on foreign policy, not only in Africa, but around the world. On the African continent, we can have a role to play if we are aligned with their overall efforts. So it makes perfect sense that we consult with the embassies before we engage. We need to keep up to date with our colleagues at the embassies just as we do with our African partners. And chances are, whatever the air forces on the continent are telling us, they've already discussed in detail with the country team."

For the visit to Botswana, the emphasis on U.S. Africa Command's cooperation with state was evidenced by the presence of AFAFRICA Foreign Policy Advisor Brent Bohne. Bohne is a commissioned foreign service officer and well versed in State Department operations. He arrived at AFAFRICA in November, 2009, bringing more than 25 years of diplomatic experience to the command. A veteran of three tours in Africa, Bohne said cooperation between the State Department and AFAFRICA is a key to the success of U.S. Africa Command and its components.

"My job is basically to listen to the views of the embassy and the State Department from the broader political perspective and bring these inputs to 17th Air Force's senior leadership. I also help an ambassador or embassy staff understand what we are about," Mr. Bohne said.

The FPA explained his role as a two-way translation service, adding that while the DoS and DoD often have the same goals, they may express them differently. Overall, however, the arrangement is fundamental to the U.S. Africa Command charter and capacity building.

"Having an FPA on the trip shows the militaries we work with that civilian and military sides of government are more successful when they work together," Mr. Bohne said. "This can be a powerful example to countries where trust between civil and military authorities is not so well established."

Ambassador Nolan said the ongoing consultation has been effective since AFAFRICA began working with Botswana.

"We have been very appreciative of the assistance AFAFRICA is providing to the BDF," the Ambassador said. "It has enhanced our efforts to help them continue to improve their capabilities. This is another way we can invest in Botswana. And it's a worthwhile investment because Botswana is a great country to partner with. They are an example of good governance and stability and our relationship and shared interests go back a long way."

Cooperation on defense-related issues goes back decades, including the International Military Education and Training program, which sends international military members to professional military education programs in the U.S., Ladnier explained.

BDF Air Arm Commander Major General T.M. Paledi and General Ladnier were classmates at Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) in 1991. Ladnier later became the commandant at ACSC from 2002 to 2004. Botswana sends a number of military students to PME in the U.S. every year, according to the Ambassador. He added that he appreciates the new emphasis on defense-related programs brought by the creation of U.S. Africa Command.

"Before U.S. Africa Command, I was in Kenya, and we were sort of in between the area of responsibility of U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. European Command, and we were auxiliary to their main objectives. Since AFRICOM has stood up, it's been nice because there is a focus on Africa now. We now have one command with no other focus areas that is devoted to the continent," Ambassador Nolan said.

The team from AFAFRICA departed March 11 with new information from the BDF and the U.S. Embassy on how to continue successful cooperation with Botswana. And in-line with General Ladnier's philosophy, they also left with friendships renewed.
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