Africa Endeavor (AE) 2011, the largest communications interoperability exercise on the African continent, kicked off on Monday, July 11 in Banjul with hundreds of observers on the parade grounds witnessing the opening ceremony.
The event began with remarks delivered by Brigadier General Robert Ferrell, U.S. Africa Command director of C4 Systems, Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy, vice president of The Gambia, and Pamela White, U.S. ambassador to the Gambia.
Africa Endeavor is an AFRICOM-sponsored multilateral communications exercise focusing on technical and human interoperability and information sharing among African militaries. AE 2011 is being conducted with more than 30 African nations, as well as representatives from North America, Europe, and five international organizations.
Njie-Saidy stressed the importance of the AE exercises and that The Gambia, host nation of this year's exercise, has always played an active role.
"As a nation, it is worthy to highlight that we have been active participants in the AE programs from the very beginning and that such cooperation between the U.S. and Africa is indeed a viable way to reach the full realization of Africans' quest for total peace and stability," she said.
Building upon the previous exercises, this year's program focuses on regional organizations and command and control messaging up and down the echelons of the command. The African Union and participating regional partners have been working to establish the messaging formats.
The exercise will test and improve critical C4 systems capabilities for regional African Standby Force (ASF) missions, including peacekeeping and stability operations, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief. Representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the ASF, and other organizations, will participate in a humanitarian disaster relief operation scenario from stations in Abuja, Nigeria, The Gambia, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In her opening remarks, Ambassador White expressed the essential goal for these exercises in establishing communications techniques and universal standards throughout Africa. "Militaries are all about peace and we must understand that and that's what we're doing here today--finding a way to make peace happen. We know that talking is better than shooting, we know that negotiation is better than confrontation, and we know that peace is better than war."
AE 2011 is a combination of the planning and labor conducted throughout the last year. The planning cycle for AE 2011 began in November 2010 during the initial planning conference in Mauritius as the technicians and delegation chiefs began discussing their expectations for the exercise. The second planning conference took place in Mali in January, and the third and final planning conference took place in Banjul in April.