LAIKIPIA AIR BASE, Kenya -- Approximately 120 air force delegates from the U.S., Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda came together for a week of knowledge sharing on personnel recovery topics for this iteration of African Partnership Flight Kenya 2019 held at Laikipia Air Base, Kenya, Aug. 20 - 24.
“The African Partnership Flight is U.S. Air Forces Africa’s premier security cooperation program with African partner nations intended to foster military collaboration and strong long-lasting relationships with and between African partner nations,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Erik Anker, U.S. Air Forces Africa lead planner.
This five-day event covered critical skillets for successful personnel recovery operations.
“We covered a host of topics related to personnel recovery including personnel recovery command and control, combat search and rescue, tactical combat casualty care and survival and evasion,” said Anker. This APF was co-hosted with the Kenya Air Force with instructors coming from both militaries who are subject matter experts in their given field.
“This partnership has brought a wealth of skills within the KAF to enhance the security, coordination and integration within the East African air forces,” said Brigadier John Omenda, Laikipia Air Base commander.
The U.S. instructors came from multiple commands throughout the U.S. Air Force to help facilitate knowledge sharing and best practices exchanges among Eastern African militaries.
“I hope the East African nations will be able to take the information they’ve learned here and not only make their own personnel recovery programs better, but build a program where we can count on one another and ensure all of our isolated personnel come back to their families and countries,” said Tech. Sgt. Jared Todd, 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape air advisor.
Participants completed four days of instruction with classrooms, demonstrations and field exercises designed to increase capabilities and standardize processes and procedures.
“This information is very important to me as a helicopter pilot. I now have a better understanding of how to recover isolated persons. I am glad that I can take this information back to my unit and teach my fellow pilots,” said Maj. Naomi Karungin, a helicopter pilot with the Uganda Peoples Defense Air Force.
In addition to U.S. Air Forces Africa working to build stronger partnerships in Africa, the Massachusetts Air National Guard had representatives help guide discussions as part of the State Partnership Program, which began in 2016 with an APF event.
“Programs like this are important because under field conditions you have limited availability and we want to maximize the survivability of our partners by giving them tools needed to maximize their survivability,” said Col. Melinda Sutton, 102nd Medical Group Commander, Massachusetts Air National Guard.
The event culminated in an exercise led by the Kenya Air Force named “Exercise Linda Rhino 2,” putting together all of the skills practiced during the week. The exercise was observed by several air chiefs from across Africa.
“What I saw today in the exercise, was brilliant...it's all about readiness. We, together, get paid to be responsive, resilient and as lethal as required against terrorist organizations and near peer competitors,” said Brig. Gen. James R. Kriesel, Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa deputy commanding general, during the APF Kenya closing ceremony.
The final thought for the conference was regarding teamwork.
“We cannot do this alone, we need each other, we need teams. You need experienced people to learn from, especially from people who have done it in real-life situations,” said Omenda.