AFAFRICA, Rwandan forces share expertise on force protection

by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres
17th Air Force Public Affairs

KIGALI, Rwanda — Time is running out and refugees are running out of food. Members of the Rwandan Defense Force and National Police have gathered together to develop a plan to fly humanitarian assistance to the affected areas while protecting their assets from terrorists.

But how will they protect the refugees? How do they deliver the supplies without a hitch? These types of questions were asked during a team building exercise developed by Air Forces Africa (17th Air Force) security forces members during a trip to the central African country Oct. 10 to 14. The week-long event provided an exchange of ideas between USAF Security Forces, 25 RDF officers and three civil police officers attending the event. Two days of classroom activity provided information on the basics of defending an air base, principles of defense and vehicle searches.

The remaining two days of hands-on training put those techniques into practical application perspective. The Rwandan group was able to perform their own vehicle and personnel searches, and had an opportunity to “think like a terrorist” to determine if buildings were safe and properly guarded.

“This event is called Airfield Security 101,” said Master Sgt. Garrett Smith, theater security events manager for the 17th Air Force Security Forces Division. “It’s all a sharing of information. We were able to show them how we conduct our airfield security and vehicle searches but learn about their techniques at the same time to enhance our knowledge of each other.”

Rwanda’s role in humanitarian assistance across the African continent has been crucial over time, he explained. Working together and showing different techniques of air base defense can be helpful in the future for both countries, he explained.
Capt. Richard Ziegler, 17th AF Security Forces Division Director, said that traveling to Rwanda and learning how they operate gave U.S. Airmen some things to consider when delivering humanitarian assistance of their own.

“They were giving us their perspective on what they have done,” he said. “They have different rules and mindsets because they are working in a different environment than we are used to. We are not the experts in humanitarian assistance that they are and they have definitely brought great knowledge and experience for us to take back as well.” According to Senior Master Sgt. Mike Keeler, 17th Air Force Security Forces Division manager, the Rwandans appreciated the exchange as well.

“This event went very well,” Keeler said. “We received great feedback and they want us back for more exchanges. We hope this opens the doors for all types of events in the future.”

This latest TSC event in Rwanda also differed from most others on the continent, Keeler explained, in that the Rwandan contingent contained only officers and no enlisted members. But the configuration worked well in the end.

“We were working with the current and future leaders of the RDF,” Keeler said. “These leaders will be able to take what they learned and show their troops. This is what we are looking for.”

As that knowledge is passed through the ranks of the RDF, questions about how to deliver assistance while protecting operations during a crisis will become easier to answer.