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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Interviews with Joy FM Radio, Ghana
<i>During an interview with Israel Laryea, Joy FM Radio, General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), talked about the reasons for creating the command, its programs and activities, and how the command assists partner
During an interview with Israel Laryea, Joy FM Radio, General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), talked about the reasons for creating the command, its programs and activities, and how the command assists partner African nations in building security capacity.

One of ways U.S. Africa Command assists African nations is by providing training and logistics support to prepare the African military members for peacekeeping operations.

"It's those sorts of things that we've been able to [help with] -- with maintenance support when you have, for example, a fleet of aircraft that you need for transporting your forces, or in the case of a disaster, providing humanitarian relief, moving supplies and alllâ?."

Ward emphasized that the command provides assistance according to the needs and requests of African nations.

"Our goal is to be able to do that on a sustained basis," Ward said, "such that the capacity of our African friends steadily increases, their professionalism steadily increases according to what is meaningful for them"

The complete transcript of the interview is provided below. See related transcript from Ward's press roundtable in Accra at MR. LARYEA: And I'd first sort of like just to establish a bit of your background. I was reading from your biography and I realized that you have quite extensive experience when it comes to â? you've been in the Army since 1971. GEN. WARD: Yeah, almost 39 years. MR. LARYEA: That's a long time. GEN. WARD: (Chuckles.) Watch out now. (Chuckles.) Way before you were born. MR. LARYEA: Before I was born. And I'd also like just to talk a bit about the combat situations you've found yourself in. And some experience when it comes to that. What's it mean? Like what would you say, for instance, was your trying times in the Army? GEN. WARD: Oh, well. Well, first, you know, as you've mentioned. I entered the Army right out of college in 1971 as an infantry officer. I was commissioned upon graduation with a degree in political science. And I came right on active duty, went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where I started jumping out of airplanes. And I've been on active duty ever since that date, which was the 6th of June. And I've had a wide variety of assignments in infantry units predominantly as my chief assignments, having commanded at every level from platoon through now a four-star position as a commander. And it's been a -- for me -- just an absolutely marvelous, marvelous journey. I enjoy it. I don't know when I made a decision to make the Army a career, but because of the time I was able to spend with great teammates and just the joy of serving with them and also serving in a profession that was fulfilling to me, I've enjoyed doing this particular work. And insofar as trying times, I said, you know, the experience that you have when you're being shot at are the ones that are most trying. And so as long as you're not being shot at you're kind of okay. And that has happened in various combat experiences -- not that we'd go through all of that. But I would say that the things that you think about when you're in those positions of, one, the fact that your human frailty and whether or not you -- you think of your loved ones, you think of your family. And you think of your teammates, those who you're with, trying to do your best to keep them safe, to do your job so that they are safeguarded. But indeed, for us, the ultimate measurements is doing our job so that we can save lives. And it's sometimes not taken that way. But that's why being a professional soldier, I think, is such a noble cause because it is about saving lives as opposed to not. And that's why the work that we do as we work with our partners or friends all in the idea of helping to prevent crises before they occur as opposed to having to react. And that's keeping people alive and providing hope for the future and especially for children. So that's it. MR. LARYEA: I noticed you were in Mogadishu. Would you say that was one of the very trying times for you? GEN. WARD: Well, I wasn't in Mogadishu during the period of time that most people talk about there in the fall of 1993. I have been to Mogadishu to be sure, but by the time that went on, I had left Somalia and I was back and forth. But I was not in Mogadishu during that time -- the Black Hawk and those incidents. I was not there. But to be sure, I had people there. I had some of my units who were there doing some very good work, doing what I just said -- trying to save lives, trying to keep their teammates safe. MR. LARYEA: Would you say there was one trigger that got the U.S. to want to set up AFRICOM? GEN. WARD: There was no single trigger. The notion of creating AFRICOM has been around for 25 years or maybe even longer. You had a series of developments and situations that made the timing appropriate for when it did occur. One very strong development was the creation of the African Union, where the continent -- the nations of the continent decided that they wanted a continental organization that was devoted to Africans doing the best for themselves to increase -- to help create stability, to help create economic viability, movement, development, security development and doing it in a way that had Africans taking responsibility for that work. And that was but one activity. You had a series of developments on the continent that included a continued movement towards democratization, good governance that was taking hold. You had on the continent economic development that continued to make the case that Africans were serious about their continued progress. And you had a realization amongst the Department of Defense that the way we were organized was not most effective in trying to deliver the sort of programs that our African friends were asking us because we had three separate commands working in Africa. You have a single organization that looks at Africa, the African Union. You have these regional organizations that were looking at their regions, but you had, from our point of view, in a very important area -- that is, our military-to-military relations -- an organizational setup that was not every neat, that was a bit disjointed with three separate commands -- each with different priorities, each with different ways of doing things, each creating a different look for our African partners. And so the decision was taken: It is time for us to correct that, to create a more efficient organizational construct that can better relate to our African partners in ways that are more consistent, more reliable, more focused, more dedicated with priorities that match the priorities that the Africans have as opposed to priorities that are reflective of these three different commands. And so the creation of the command was a very simple statement that we need to reorganize ourselves, just like companies reorganize and change structures to better reflect the changing dynamic of changing -- the changes of the day. That's all this was. It was a reorganization, a restructuring. Our work is the same; it continues. But because of the restructuring, we're able to be more effective in what we do, pay more attention to what we do and hopefully do it in a more coherent and collaborative way with all the partners -- with our international partners, clearly the nations of Africa, plus the organization of Africa -- to the African Union to its regional economic communities. Q: You talk about African partners. Who were these key partners you must have started AFRICOM with or originally -- (inaudible, cross talk)? GEN. WARD: Well, the partners are partners that I â? we didn't start â? because they already existed. When I was the deputy commander in U.S. European Command, we were already partnering in Africa. When I was in U.S. Central Command, we were partnering in Africa. So we didn't start anything; we just continued with what we were doing with our friends and nations that we were having military-to-military relations with. And we just restructured how we were doing that work, so instead of having a nation having to deal with three different commands, it now only had to deal with one command. And so it wasn't a change in what we were doing; it was only a change in how we organized ourselves to do it. And so there wasn't an issue of getting new partners or creating new partnerships; it was an issue of how we change our organizational construct to more effectively work with our partners. MR. LARYEA: And you were earlier also talking about some requests that had come from your partners. So your partners felt that you could better relate to them. Are you suggesting that there was some consultation in the setting up of AFRICOM? GEN. WARD: Well, now, what I'm speaking of there is when we have our military-to-military activities, what we did not want to do was impose things on Africans. And so we seek to do those things that Africans asked us to do. You know, so we listen to them. We pay attention to what they say. And so when they come to us and say, can we have assistance and logistical support or training support or increased professionalization of our noncommissioned officer corps or our officer corps, specialized training -- it's that that they come to us to help because, again, it's not our role to tell them, to dictate. It's our part to play as the capacity that they seek to increase has certain requirements and if we can be a factor in helping to satisfy those requirements, we do that. And so the -- what they ask us -- of us are those things that they see as important in increasing their capacity to provide for their own security, to participate in peacekeeping operations of the peacekeeping force. Where there are shortfalls or gaps that we can fill, then we seek to do -- we seek to do that. MR. LARYEA: How about requests for weaponry? GEN. WARD: There are no requests for weaponry that we specifically deal with, but there are -- there's something called foreign military sales programs. And again, where nations have requests for either modernizing their fleet of -- whatever they be -- vehicles, aircraft, ground systems -- that is something that's handled through our defense security cooperation apparatus. It's a result of national policy decisions and whatnot. And so if that occurs, it happens in those channels and then we would only be there to help bring those about. But insofar as weaponizing and weaponry, that's not something that's central to what we do. MR. LARYEA: It also sounds quite like a very fine way to exhibit the weapons stock that you have so that they may want to probably purchase some. GEN. WARD: Well, not necessarily because one thing that we don't go around displaying weapons and whatnot. That's not -- it's just not something we do. MR. LARYEA: Yeah, but if some of the soldiers who have been with you or as to the partnership they get to mix with you, they get to -- (inaudible) -- on operations with you or some training programs with you. We get to see the kind of sophistication you have and then they would want to go back and tell their countries, well, there's some weapons that you may want to buy some. GEN. WARD: No, I think that's probably less likely to happen. Weapons are not what makes a professional force. What makes a professional force are those things of the human being, the individual -- the sailor, the soldier, the marine, the airman, the coast guardman -- that causes them to be a professional, to be seen as a professional by their people. Brandishing around some fancy piece of machinery does not make a professional. And a professional comes from who you are as an individual -- your respect for your constitution, your respect for the rule of law, your respect for legitimate civilian authority. And what we do is through our various programs are always cognizant of reinforcing that aspect of being a professional, such that, you know, militaries become protectors of their society and are seen as such, respected by their people as opposed to not. And not as a tool that's used for purposes that don't promote the goodness of the society. And so while that's easy to maybe focus on, it's clearly not the essence of being a professional military. A professional military because of how its leaders think, how its men and women think, how they have respect for their fellow human beings and how they are dedicated and committed to upholding their constitution on behalf of their people. MR. LARYEA: How would you say AFRICOM has helped or what are some of the achievements you have -- (inaudible)? GEN. WARD: Well, as nations of Africa have decided that when it comes to various activities going on on the continent, from Darfur to Somalia -- and they have determined it is in their best interest to try to do something to reduce levels of violence but they may require some logistics support, some training support to get there. There has been a role that we have been able to play in that. That role is determined by our Department of State because it is a policy decision. It is a policy matter that is -- that anything that we do is based on this. We don't do things because I come in and decided I wanted to go somewhere and help someone or do anything. It's grounded in the fact that we have a policy decision taken by our president, our secretary of state, our secretary of defense, our Congress. And in that policy decision where there are military --inaudible -- or military activities, then that's what we do. For example, as nations were preparing to go to Darfur as a part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there, they may have required logistics support, lift support, air support, some equipment from individual equipment and gear to force protection equipment -- (inaudible) -- wire, other things that we were able to provide. Training â? they were prepared to go into an environment for peacekeeping. Well, how do soldiers react to different situations? The training -- they facilitated with that. We were able to provide some training assistance to our Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance, which is a State Department program, where we as AFRICOM were able to provide some military mentors to help in that training. And so it's those sorts of things that we've been able to do that help -- with maintenance support when you have, for example, a fleet of aircraft that you need for transporting your forces, or in the case of a disaster, providing humanitarian relief, moving supplies and all, well, how will you know when you have a need that the equipment will be operational? Well, you have to have effective logistic systems, maintenance systems, repair parts systems, maintenance personnel who know how to repair a system. In the case of the maritime security business you have a patrol boat that you use in your maritime waters; well, you have to keep the engine running. Salt water corrodes -- you have to keep the electrical systems operational. So we provide the training on maintaining electrical systems, maintaining outboard motors or inboard marine motors so that these pieces of equipment are available. Trucks you have to move from here to there -- well, if the trucks don't work, if you don't have a repair parts flow that keeps them operational, but you have to build systems for that. You have to train mechanics to do that work. And sometimes this equipment is complex and if you have not been exposed to it, to get started you need the assistance to provide the training so that you can do those sorts of things. That's what we have been doing around the continent and, again, it's because we've been asked to provide that type of assistance. So our goal is to be able to do that on a sustained basis, such that, you know, the capacity of our African friends steadily increases, their professionalism steadily increases according to what is meaningful to them. And where we can be of any assistance in that, that's what we do -- to increase their human capacity to be better stewards in the safety arena, in the security arena, for their people. MR. : Last question. MR. LARYEA: How has AFRICOM or how is AFRICOM going to help in managing the oil and gas industry? Is there a way you can help? GEN. WARD: In what with oil and gas? MR. LARYEA: In our oil and gas industry, Ghana's oil and gas industry. GEN. WARD: Well, AFRICOM doesn't have a role in helping Ghana with its oil and gas industry. That's Ghana's, and the people of Ghana's -- MR. LARYEA: In terms of â? I'm wondering â? (inaudible) â? to security. GEN. WARD: Well, where Ghana is interested in safeguarding and securing its oil and gas industry and where there are threats to it posed by nefarious characters -- those who would pilfer from the oil fields, or tap illegally into pipelines and those sorts of things -- they, I'm sure, are looking to have security structures that would prevent that. Where their security structures that they would have -- that would prevent, you know, tampering with their oil production facilities and distribution facilities -- where they might have additional requirements and where we can help, then that would be it. But that would a part of the overall maritime security business. They would want to combat illegal fishing in their territorial waters, to combat illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, people in their territorial waters. It is not AFRICOM's role to do that. It's the role of Ghana to do that. Where we would be of an assistance is, as the Ghanaians look to increase their capacity to provide that security, if our provision of equipment, such as patrol boats; if our provision of additional maintenance training so that the patrol boats could stay operational; if our provision of maritime security practices such as -- when you see something going on and you want to move forward and interrogate it or question those who you see, how do you do that in a safe way? We call it visit, board and search procedures. So those are procedures that help safeguard the naval crews, but as well as the crew that's aboard this vessel, whatever it is. There are techniques that can be more effective in doing some of that work. And so it's through providing training on those techniques that we would be of a help, but again, it would be through the work being done by the Ghanaians and their protection, as opposed to anyone else doing it for them. MR. LARYEA: Okay. All right, then. While I was talking to you, I noticed you have â? (inaudible). Is it as unusual? Did you lose that? GEN. WARD: No, no, it's just trying to take care of what you have. (Laughter.) MR. LARYEA: Okay, then. Thanks very much. MR. : Thank you. (Off-side conversation.) GEN. WARD: I loved it. MR. LARYEA: I'd like to give the one to the â? if I'd probably had more time, yeah. GEN. WARD: Okay. MR. LARYEA: Okay, then. It's a pleasure to meet you. GEN. WARD: Thank you, you likewise. All the best to you, take care. Thank you. (END)