African air chiefs pledge cooperation, trust, solutions

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
AFAFRICA Public Affairs

DAKAR, Senegal — The 2012 Regional Air Chiefs’ Conference wrapped up here Aug. 30, leaving military leaders from multiple North and Western African nations excited about progress and resolutions involving an increase in regional coordination.

One of the main points was, “the need to share information,” said Ghana air force Air Cmdr. Philip Ayisa, Tamale air force base, Ghana, commander.

“African countries need to come together to decisively coordinate and face these challenges together,” he said.

The attending African nations communally agree that each country, individually, does not have the equipment, resources or air power necessary to combat all aspects of national defense. However, they accept that together it can be done.

“Participation and cooperation (among African countries) is key to the improvement of our capabilities, our personnel readiness and the multiple challenges and security challenges in the region,” said Nigerian Air Marshall M.D. Umar, chief of the Nigerian air force.

On the opening day, the group discussed cross-regional issues (common threats and challenges) affecting all African nations in attendance.

“This discussion group reflects a sincere commitment to our collective efforts,” said Maj. Gen. Carlton Everhart, 3rd Air Force vice commander. “Capacity building has continued to be the focus of what we have done here this week, and I think we’ve learned a lot from each other.”

The second day focused on the use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and strategic airlift in Africa and how to properly enable the sharing and inter-cooperation of these assets within the affected African nations.

“ISR is more than just an aircraft, more than just sensors. It takes a considerable amount of manpower to put it together and placed in the right hands in a timely manner,” said Col. Gordon Hendrickson, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa director of intelligence. “It’s important for us to draw together these air chiefs from throughout Africa and help guide them into coming up with those solutions to many of the unique challenges that they face.”

Strategic airlift capabilities in African countries are also limited due to the limited resources available.

“Strategic airlift remains a critical supporting capability that should be achieved, maintained and improved,” said Ghana air force wing commander, Nana Adu-Gyamfi. “A systematic use of pulled and shared (strategic airlift) assets would reduce duplication, overhead and medium, and long-term capabilities.”

The last subject discussed was the use of air-ground integration where Lt. Col. Craig McCarty, 435th Air Ground Operations Squadron commander, spoke about the capabilities close air support can bring to the fight.

“CAS is something that can help bring together the African armies and air forces to allow them to work more efficiently with each other,” McCarty said. “In the long term, it will act as the baseline information for when each country starts cooperating and working together.”

At the end of the conference, Everhart had a few parting words for all the attendees.

The conference ended as a resounding success as military leaders packed up and prepared to leave Senegal to bring home lessons learned, an understanding of the challenges affecting the region and possible solutions to those challenges.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s an immense effort that we’ve put together here and I look forward to making great strides in progress for the benefit of these nations,” Everhart said.