STUTTGART, Germany – Six journalists from Senegal and one from Guinea Bissau participated in a media delegation visit hosted by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Dec. 11-14, 2017, at Kelley Barracks, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany.
“Inviting journalists to come here helps to demystify what AFRICOM is,” said Samantha Reho, who works as a media relations officer for AFRICOM Public Affairs and Communication Synchronization division and who spearheaded the logistics for this particular media delegation.
Throughout the week, staff experts provided briefings on a variety of programs and topics to educate the journalists on how AFRICOM works with partner nations on the continent. Although most of the journalists possessed some level of English skills, all briefs, even though presented in English, were translated into French to ensure maximum understanding of the material.
Briefings topics included security cooperation programs, the National Guard State Partnership Program, how AFRICOM works with USAID to bring assistance and work with African partners to avert a crises such as Ebola, rule of law engagements, military exercises, maritime security, various disaster relief and humanitarian assistance programs, and multinational cooperation efforts. Component commands, U.S. Army Africa, U.S. Air Forces Africa, and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa, as well as the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) also presented briefs.
“I was here before on a previous visit of journalists,” said Commandant Saliou Ngom, head of the Media Strategies division of the Senegal Armed Forces communications division, “but I was working logistics of the visit and did not have to opportunity to really hear the briefs. This time, I have learned so much about AFRICOM’s work in Africa and now I have a much better understanding of the programs and how our militaries work together.”
Among the many questions asked by the journalists was wanting to know what the end state for AFRICOM on the continent.
“The end state is that each nation can provide for its own security,” said U.S. Navy Commander Robert Stouse, a foreign area officer and branch chief in AFRICOM’s Strategy, Engagement and Programs (J5) Directorate. “Even better, if you can provide it for your neighbor.”
Stouse, who said his branch covers 16 countries in Africa, described Senegal as being among the most capable partner nations because of its reputation in leading in peacekeeping operations.
Baye Omar Guéye, Director of Senegal’s first private radio station, Sud FM, asked, “What is the main objective of exercises?”
“Capacity building,” answered Randy Stamper, exercise planner in AFRICOM’s Operations and Cyber (J3) Directorate, “and it gives us training as well, as we transport people over long distances in short amounts of time.”
The week concluded with a group interview with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James C. Vechery, Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations, U.S. Africa Command.
The journalist collaborated on drawing up questions as a group, and Guéye acted as the interviewer.
In his responses, Vechery emphasized the strength of partnerships across the continent, and in addition to countries, with NGOs, the African Union, ECOWAS, and a variety of international partners as well.
“Peace, security and prosperity is our end state,” said Vechery. “Using the 3D approach of Defense, Diplomacy and Development, we work with others to help accomplish this end state.
“As an example, after Ebola, we worked to help establish WADPI [West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative] and we did this through ECOWAS,” said Vechery. “This helped West Africa with future crises; this is a tangible example of how with work together to develop solutions.”
On a parting note, the most senior of the journalists’ group, Amadou Fall, Publication Director of the weekly magazine La Gazette, speaking for the group said, “This is experience is something that will touch us for the rest of our lives, not only as media professionals but as people.
"We are 5,000 kilometers from our home, but we never missed the warmth while with you guys. So lucky for us, despite the first time we traveled together, some of us have never met before, but it worked out really well, and we had a great experience,” he said.