General Carter F. Ham, commander, U.S. Africa Command, met with AFRICOM component commanders from Europe and Africa for the semi-annual AFRICOM Component Commander's Conference on the Naval Support Activity in Naples, Italy, November 21, 2011.
Commanders, deputy commanders, and command senior enlisted leaders from U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Marine Forces Africa, U.S. Army Africa, 17th Air Force, Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and Special Operations Command Africa gathered at Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa headquarters to discuss current issues, future challenges, and the wide range of U.S. military programs and activities focused on building partner capacity in Africa.
"The President, in his speeches, talks a lot about this being a time of transformational change," said Ham. "In Africa, it's pretty easy to look at the North and see all the great change that has occurred there; change caused by the ever-increasing demand of an exploding population, especially the very young population and clashes of political ideology."
The AFRICOM Component Commander's Conference is facilitated by a different component command each time and this is the first time that the AFRICOM Component Commander's Conference has been held in Naples.
The component commanders and the senior enlisted leaders felt that this is an important location for the conference.
"[Holding the conference] in Naples shows that the AFRICOM mission reaches beyond the staff at Stuttgart [where AFRICOM headquarters is located], and it gives all the attendees a better appreciation of the relationships between components and the important work they do," said Chief Master Sgt. Jack Johnson, AFRICOM's senior enlisted leader.
Johnson also stressed the importance of having the senior enlisted leaders attend the conference.
"Within our military, about 80% of our forces are enlisted, and it's important to hear directly from our commanders exactly where we were, where we are and where we're going," said Johnson. "Our responsibility [as senior enlisted leaders] is to be able take that information, translate it, and ensure that the enlisted folks are aware [of the commander's requirements]."
In addition to the conference, the spouses of senior leadership discussed the efficiencies of the quality of life programs throughout the commands in Europe and Africa.
"I think that it's important to start talking about a more joint world," said Amy LeVault, wife of Fleet Master Chief Bradley LeVault. "As we look at the budget constraints and move into the future, we all need to work more jointly and see how we can work together to cut things where we can while still supporting the military."