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AFRICOM Builds Logistics Capability in African Partners
Several robust programs at U.S. Africa Command are helping to ensure that when African partners pull together to support shared security interests, they have the logistical capabilities they need to deploy and sustain their operations<br /> <br
Several robust programs at U.S. Africa Command are helping to ensure that when African partners pull together to support shared security interests, they have the logistical capabilities they need to deploy and sustain their operations

Building the capacity of individual African states and regional organizations has been a cornerstone principle at AFRICOM since its inception. "The shorthand for that is, 'African solutions to African problems,'" Army General Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM's commander, told American Forces Press Service.

Ham said he's been encouraged to see Africans increasingly rising to the challenge, particularly in support of counterterrorism and peacekeeping operations.

But Melissa Jordan, program manager for the command's theater logistics engagement program, recognizes that willing forces aren't sufficient if they don't have the logistical underpinning to back them up.

"You cannot deploy or employ your resources in the deployed environment if you don't have a strong logistics structure at your home station," she said. "If your vehicles are dilapidated, if your aircraft aren't maintained well, if your equipment that supports major end items is not maintained and accounted for, if you don't have a strong home-station logistics structure in garrison, then you simply aren't able to sustain a deployment."

In short, logistics ultimately can be a valuable force enabler or a critical failure point. "We want to help our partners achieve the former, so we develop, implement and deliver training activities to bridge that gap and help them get there," Jordan said. "Everything we are doing is to help that African partner."

The training focuses on three primary logistics skill sets: how to deploy, how to sustain -- which in military terms is called "employment" -- and how to optimize major resources, she explained.

AFRICOM's African Deployment Assistance Partnership Team program, called ADAPT, has been helping to prepare partners for deployments since 2009.

Conducted through four two-week engagements over a two-year period, the program focuses on air cargo loading and deployment. The instructors teach partners, among other skills, how to palletize their cargo, design a load plan and prepare vehicles and rolling stock, Jordan said.

With this capability, the Africans have more control about how their equipment is loaded when United Nations aircrews arrive to transport them to operations, Jordan said.

"That is important, because when they get off the aircraft at the deployed environment -- whether it is Somalia or Sudan or Sierra Leone or wherever they are going -- it is really important for them to know what is coming off first, and be able to directly start using it," she explained. "So we are helping those partners manage their own deployments much better from the beginning."

U.S. Army Africa soldiers initially taught the ADAPT program, but U.S. Air Forces Africa airmen have taken over the air cargo and air deployment training instruction. This, Jordan said, enables U.S. Army Africa to teach new courses related to ground deployments using surface platforms, Jordan said.

"That's really important to our partner nations conducting counterterrorism operations," she said. Partners who may not always use aircraft to deploy need to be able to conduct their own security at borders or over the road, she added.

Jordan noted, for example, that the Guineans opted to deploy by ground to support U.N. peacekeeping operations in Côte d'Ivoire, because it offered more flexibility than air deployment.

Regardless of how partners deploy, another AFRICOM program, called PILOT, or Partnership for Integrated Logistics Operations and Tactics, is teaching the integrated logistics operations and tactics African forces need to sustain their operations. "Sustaining logistics operations in a deployed environment is no small task," Jordan said. "There are so many elements involved, and you have to think about them all before you go."

The three-week PILOT program, taught by U.S. Marine Forces Africa, focuses on what happens after forces arrive at a deployment site.

"Once they get to the deployed environment, it's how to offload the aircraft, stage the equipment and move it forward to sustain military operations while they are deployed," Jordan said. The training also focuses on maintenance, supply-chain and equipment accountability capabilities.

One problem for many African nations is that, although they may have plenty of vehicles, they may lack the logistics and maintenance organizations to support them. So AFRICOM introduced two additional programs to fill the void.

The newest, Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance Team, or VEMAT, is helping partner militaries build vehicle and equipment maintenance capabilities. The training goes beyond direct maintenance and includes instruction on setting up a maintenance or repair-parts shop, planning oil filter and fuel filter changes and devising a system to resupply tires, engines and other major parts.

"VEMAT builds a culture of [preventive] maintenance and resource accountability," Jordan said. "And that is really important when we are talking about maintenance scheduling. We help them with the supply-chain solution so they can manage their end items."

U.S. Marine Forces Africa personnel administer the training over five phases through what Jordan called "experience-based learning."

"We don't spend a lot of time in the classroom doing PowerPoint," she said. "We spend a lot of time doing hands on." This type of training, she explained, has proven effective despite language barriers and other traditional education challenges.

U.S. Air Force Africa conducts another program called LOGMAT, or Logistics Management Assistance Team training, which concentrates on aircraft maintenance and the logistics systems required to support it.

In addition to strengthening individual partner nations' logistical capabilities, these programs are fostering regional cooperation among militaries so they are able to work together one deployed. "That's important, because the Africans don't typically deploy by themselves. They deploy regionally," Jordan said. "So bringing them together for courses like LOGMAT gives them an opportunity to dialog in how they conduct their logistical operations."

"We are building capability, one logistician at a time," she said. "But that regular interoperability is compounded every time we bring them together."

As the training progresses, Jordan said, she's also encouraged to see the best African partner-nation students emerging as instructors. One student-turned-instructor, from Nigeria, believed so deeply in the logistics program that gave up his scheduled rest and recuperation leave during his deployment to Somalia to return to the schoolhouse to teach.

These African instructors will be the ones to lead the logistics program forward as they increasingly outnumber U.S. instructors, she said.

"We are talking about experienced peacekeepers, experienced officers who are highly educated in logistics. And they are the people we are transferring ownership of these courses to," Jordan said.

"And that is our end goal: to help them become self-sufficient and for this training to last beyond our presence," she said. "That way, our investment lasts beyond our contribution. And that self-sufficiency is exactly what the Africans want as well."