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Senior Leader Engagement Boosts Relationships in Africa
Focused on establishing strong bonds with African partners, Major General Ronald Ladnier, commander of Seventeenth Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Africa, traveled to Botswana and South Africa June 7-12, 2009 to meet with local defense force
BOTSWANA - Major General Tumelo Moemedi Paledi, Botswana Defense Force (BDF) Air Arm commander, leads Major General Ladnier, U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, on a tour of BDF air operations and facilities during a senior leader engagement visit June 9, 2009.  While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities. (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 3: BOTSWANA - Major General Tumelo Moemedi Paledi, Botswana Defense Force (BDF) Air Arm commander, leads Major General Ladnier, U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, on a tour of BDF air operations and facilities during a senior leader engagement visit June 9, 2009. While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities. (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs) Download full-resolution version
CAPE TOWN, South Africa - A formation of troops at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town, South Africa greets Major General Ron Ladnier, U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, during his senior leader engagement visit June 12, 2009. While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities.  (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 3: CAPE TOWN, South Africa - A formation of troops at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town, South Africa greets Major General Ron Ladnier, U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, during his senior leader engagement visit June 12, 2009. While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities. (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs) Download full-resolution version
BOTSWANA - A service member with the Botswana Defense Force (left) shakes hands with U.S. Air Forces Africa Commander Major General Ronald Ladnier during his senior leader engagement visit to Botswana June 9, 2009.  While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities.  (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 3: BOTSWANA - A service member with the Botswana Defense Force (left) shakes hands with U.S. Air Forces Africa Commander Major General Ronald Ladnier during his senior leader engagement visit to Botswana June 9, 2009. While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities. (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs) Download full-resolution version
BOTSWANA - Major General Tumelo Moemedi Paledi, Botswana Defense Force (BDF) Air Arm commander, leads Major General Ladnier, U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, on a tour of BDF air operations and facilities during a senior leader engagement visit June 9, 2009.  While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities. (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs)
CAPE TOWN, South Africa - A formation of troops at Air Force Base Ysterplaat in Cape Town, South Africa greets Major General Ron Ladnier, U.S. Air Forces Africa commander, during his senior leader engagement visit June 12, 2009. While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities.  (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs)
BOTSWANA - A service member with the Botswana Defense Force (left) shakes hands with U.S. Air Forces Africa Commander Major General Ronald Ladnier during his senior leader engagement visit to Botswana June 9, 2009.  While in Botswana and South Africa, Ladnier met with local officials to exchange information through mission briefings, operational discussions, and tours of air base facilities.  (Photo by Major Paula Kurtz, Seventeenth Air Force Public Affairs)
Focused on establishing strong bonds with African partners, Major General Ronald Ladnier, commander of Seventeenth Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Africa, traveled to Botswana and South Africa June 7-12, 2009 to meet with local defense force officials and interagency partners in the U.S. Embassies of both nations. Face-to-face meetings with the local officials enabled an extensive exchange of information through mission briefings, operational discussions and tours of air base facilities.

"My goal was to come away with a better understanding of the country team's vision, local forces' capabilities, their future plans, and how we can be helpful in our engagement," Ladnier said. "The best way we can start to do this is by establishing a two-way dialogue, and then really listening to what our partners have to say about their goals and objectives."

The general was accompanied by 17th Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant Timothy Steffen, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Henry from the Plans Directorate, and his Public Affairs Officer, Major Paula Kurtz. Traveling 15 hours from the United States, where he had attended a week-long meeting of U.S. Air Force senior leaders at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Ladnier met up with his team on the ground in South Africa, where they boarded a short flight to neighboring Botswana.

On arrival in Gaborone, the team traveled to the U.S. Embassy where they spent the morning with U.S. Ambassador Stephen Nolan and several members of his country team to discuss the bilateral relationship between Botswana and the United States, which the ambassador described as "very receptive" on the part of the Botswanans. He pointed specifically to Botswana's participation in the National Guard State Partnership Program with the state of North Carolina, where they have been an active partner and engaged with members of the North Carolina National Guard since 2008.

"The North Carolina program is one of the best state partnership programs because the BDF (Botswana Defense Force) is so receptive," Ambassador Nolan said. "Comments I've received from the BDF mention how appreciative they are for the exchange opportunities. There is a history of contact and a willingness to engage with U.S. forces and we need to capitalize on that."

Broad discussion with the country team highlighted areas of opportunity that are ripe for engagement including trade expansion, health programs, economic diversification, and infrastructure development.

"Botswana is a shining example of an African nation coming into independence and leading the way in the right way," the Ambassador said. "As African countries expand and become more integrated, Botswana is a country that gets it right and is poised to be a leader for other nations."

Following lunch, the 17th Air Force team traveled to the Botswana Defense Command and Staff College, where Ladnier gave remarks to an audience of 60, including 36 mid-grade officers in residence, on the trademarks of successful militaries. Following his presentation, General Ladnier provided an interview with a local radio station where he discussed the reasons for establishing U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), along with the command's goals and objectives in Africa.

Wrapping up the visit on Tuesday morning, the group visited the Bephatshwe Air Base, where they met with the BDF Air Arm Commander Major General Tumelo Moemedi Paledi, and toured the air base facilities, to include cargo, fighter and helicopter units as well as training facilities.

"We received a very warm welcome and had a very productive discussion with Major General Paledi and his staff," Ladnier said. "Some of their internally developed capabilities, such as the engine depot and new staff college, were very impressive. Overall, I would say they are very enthusiastic about expanding some of our current programs, to include aircraft maintenance and development of mid-level officers and NCOs."

Wednesday morning found the group in Johannesburg, South Africa, where a similar itinerary awaited. The group met first with the Charge d' Affairs Ms. Helen LaLime and her core country team at the U.S. Embassy, followed by a visit to South Africa Air Force Headquarters for a meeting and luncheon with the SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Gagiano. On Thursday the team visited Air Force Base Swartkop, a SAAF air base in Capetown, and on Friday morning Ladnier addressed the South African Strategic Theory Conference at Stellenbosch College on the topic of airlift during humanitarian operations.

"With recent elections and the change of administration in South Africa, many are watching to see how that will affect our bilateral relationship," Ladnier said. "We enjoyed a very warm reception from the South African Air Force and hope to continue, and possibly expand, our military engagement with this important partner nation."
Over the past several years, the United States and South Africa have worked together in the areas of C-130 maintenance and logistics, International Military Education and Training for their officers and NCOs, and in 2007 established a State Partnership Program with the New York National Guard. During this visit, SAAF members expressed interest in an exchange instructor pilot, unmanned aerial vehicles and search and rescue operations.

"This was really a great trip," Ladnier said. "We went to start the dialogue and find out where we can be helpful. Seeing the facilities and discussing first-hand the capabilities, goals and objectives of these partner-nation air forces really enhances our perspective when it comes to future plans and engagement. I'm looking forward to future visits and continued dialogue with Botswana, South Africa and many other African partners."


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