With its continued efforts to build the capacity of its partner nations, U.S. Army Africa planners recently coordinated the deployment of a Burundian Light Infantry Battalion of 850 Soldiers and equipment from Bujumbura, Burundi to Bangui, Central African Republic.
In support of the mission in CAR, USARAF was responsible from the very beginning to include planning and coordinating this complex operation.
“Not only do we support U.S. forces, we support joint and international forces; U.K., France and others that have been partners with us on the continent of Africa for a very long time. We value their commitment.
We share information. We share resources, plans, ideas so that we can do it better, faster, stronger at a better value to the taxpayer and our government,” said Col. Timothy Beckner, USARAF Chief of Logistics.
For quite some time the Security Cooperation field has been “building partner capacity.” The definition of BPC varies widely depending on the country or even specific program an individual is working on or the project they are implementing. So what does building BPC look like in Africa during a Joint Chiefs of Staff Execution in a post conflict country?
“Initial capacity building with the Burundian National Defense Force began in late 2007 when Burundi responded to a request for troops from the African Union to deploy to the AU mission in Somalia known as AMISOM,” said Maj. Richard J. Sonnenfeld, Chief of Security Cooperation U.S. Embassy Burundi. “The Department of State, using peacekeeping operations funds, sent retired military trainers under the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, which is the most robust and enduring partnership with the BNDF. None of the auxiliary military and BPC training would have been possible without having had the basic infantry training through ACOTA to build on,” he said.
The most prominent example of BPC is the ability of the BNDF to assist and often lead themselves in complex deployment operations.
Sonnenfeld said that the BNDF do not have the necessary airlift platforms to self-deploy across vast distances and few countries do. “However, the BNDF have pallet/vehicle scales and manifest databases are habitually trained by U.S. Air Force Africa in Africa Deployment Assistance Partnership Training-Air (ADAPT-A). They are also trained by U.S. Army Africa in Africa Deployment Assistance Partnership Training-Ground (ADAPT-G). These programs provide a foundational basis from which a small team of US deployment specialists can leverage host nation capacity,” he said.
According to the USARAF mission, partner capacity is also centrally focused on military-to-military training. This hands-on instruction enables bonding between the training team and the host nation. An airfield survey was conducted by USAFAF in September of 2013, but more than a survey, it was actually a fact finding and technical assessment mission to determine the ability of landing and servicing U.S. military aircraft at Bujumbura International Airport.
Close cooperation between the U.S. military and the BNDF helped the CAA be open to the idea of having a dozen USAFAF airmen working, testing, measuring, and drilling on their airport. “This collaboration is continually highlighted to senior Government of Burundi officials, and the influence that senior GoB officials have to facilitate other requests like the airfield survey is one way in which we achieve access to other engagement opportunities,” the Burundi OSC Chief said.
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) has been conducting numerous assessments of the BNDF civil-military affairs training in which our allies in the UK have the lead. While CJTF-HOA nests its civil affairs engagement under the British Peace Support Teams overarching goals, the U.S. not only leverages the military-to-military engagement with the BNDF, but also leverages our international partners. Sonnenfeld said one of the principle efforts of the civil affairs engagements is the integration of women in combat operations in Somalia. It was that much more rewarding this week to watch as a number of BNDF women boarded aircraft for deployment to Central African Republic (CAR). This specific, targeted, and critical component of peacekeeping operations will ensure United Nations best practices for post-conflict integration will be addressed in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325: General Women, Peace, and Security.
USARAF and CJTF-HOA have also begun conducting medical training and assessments and in 2014 will initiate a five-year surgical training program to better enable BNDF medical staff to treat wounded soldiers in Somalia or CAR. This is an ambitious training plan and a necessary one, yet it would not be possible if U.S. had not fostered a close and direct relationship with the BNDF over last seven years.
Sonnenfeld reported that in FY13 DoD had a total of 178 TDY visitors to Burundi for a total of 7,500 TDY days, with visits ranging from 3-5 days to up to six months. While duration is less consequential, the output is the soldier-to-soldier interaction that occurs. “Thus, to build partner capacity, a military-to-military engagement need only be one meeting, but it may be an entire 10-week program of instruction. Regardless of the duration, each event helps build upon previous engagements to the point at which we have synergy between the U.S. and Burundi with regard to security cooperation initiatives,” he said.
Building Partner Capacity is a slow and sometimes financially costly endeavor. In Africa it required that DoD establish over 25 new Offices of Security Cooperation at U.S. Embassies since AFRICOM was founded in 2007. This effort included aligning additional manpower assets from subordinate commands, and the application of limited funding from dwindling sources.
“But when the U.S. leverages assets to assist African partners in averting a crises and potentially preventing genocide, the investment is money well spent,” Sonnefeld said. “The Burundians were ready to deploy because they have been conducting peacekeeping operations at a remarkable pace in Somalia since 2008, and they recently graduated their 25th battalion set for deployment to Somalia in January 2014. Their commitment to regional security is why the Secretary of Defense ordered AFRICOM to transport a battalion of Burundian peacekeepers to CAR on short notice -- they are a ready and reliable African partner,” Sonnenfeld concluded.
Burundian Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Potien Hakizimana thanked the U.S. for all the assistance in getting his men and equipment to Bangui.