In his "Commander's Intent 2011" message, one of U.S. Army General William E. "Kip" Ward's key approaches was that, "… [U.S. Africa Command] will continue to support the African Union (AU) to include strengthening the capabilities and interoperability of the African Standby Force (ASF) and its sub-regional elements."
To forward that goal, Major George K. Allen Jr. of U.S. Army Africa and Lieutenant Jonathan Goerk of U.S. Naval Forces Africa traveled to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo in October 2010, to participate in the Conference Bilan et Retour d'experience de L'exercice Kwanza 2010 or Exercise Kwanza After Action Review (AAR).
Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) held the exercise in order to validate Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC) to AU standards. The force is one of five brigade-size elements that make up the AU's ASF--created to respond to crises on the African continent.
Allen and Goerk sat alongside their ECCAS counterparts to gain a better understanding of how FOMAC performed during Exercise Kwanza in Cabo Ledo, Angola, from May 22 to June 5, 2010. The observers' participation in the Exercise Kwanza AAR follows their observation of the exercise this summer.
"We appreciate being invited by ECCAS to brief our observations of Exercise Kwanza," Allen said. "This is a virtuous cycle -- by supporting FOMAC we show that AFRICOM supports the regional standby forces, thus encouraging ECCAS member countries to cooperate and solve problems in the region. Basically, Africans solving African problems."
According to Allen, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) -- an organization like ECCAS -- diplomatically responded recently -- and could militarily respond -- to the electoral crisis in the West African country of Cote d'Ivorie. The ECCAS could respond to a crisis in its area of responsibility composed of Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe and Chad.
"ECCAS and FOMAC are professional and ready to go," Goerk said. "Exercise Kwanza proved that as an armed force, FOMAC can work with diplomats, gendarmerie, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on the both the sea and ground."
Major General Charles Richard Mondjo of the Armed Force of the Republic of Congo and the President of the ECCAS Certification Committee emphasized that ECCAS is at the forefront of integrating civilians in exercises and operations.
"During ECCAS/FOMAC operations and exercises," Mondjo said, "the Chief of Mission/Special Representative is in charge of the mission."
"In working with FOMAC and the other regional standby forces, AFRICOM and USARAF could easily incorporate civilians and NGOs into our military exercise play and operations," Allen said. "Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational (JIIM) personnel are already part of their formations. It is a win-win proposition."
In addition to briefing at the AAR, AFRICOM military personnel also had the opportunity to get to know the ECCAS counterparts on a more personal level by taking in a tour of Kinshasa, a traditional dance performance, and enjoying a Congo River cruise.