Air Forces Africa commander visits Ugandan air force

Story and photo by Master Sgt. Jim Fisher
17th Air Force Public Affairs

ENTEBE AIR BASE, Uganda ― U.S. Air Forces Africa Commander Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward led a senior leader engagement to this East African nation Dec. 12 to 14, emphasizing the importance of supporting a “regional leader and valued partner.”

“Uganda is one of our key partners in Africa and has established itself as a regional leader with its work to resolve conflicts and counter violent extremism,” the general said.

In addition to supporting African Union peacekeeping efforts in Somalia, and contributions to similar initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Burundi, the Ugandan People’s Defence Force has continued its pursuit of the brutal group the Lord’s Resistance Army, the general said.

President Barack Obama announced Oct. 14 that a small number of U.S. military personnel would be deployed to help advise the security forces of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan in their joint efforts against the LRA.

“I have a lot of admiration for their tenacity in their efforts to bring an end to the suffering caused by the LRA. It’s essential that we support them in this effort so they can bring this long-term battle to a conclusion,” Woodward said.

Coordinating and directing that support is the purpose of the engagement, said U.S. Army Maj. Brad Nicholson, chief of the office of security cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala. He said the UPDF and the Ugandan air force are interested in continuing the sharing of expertise on logistics, especially as they relate to expeditionary air operations.

“They are very interested in the management of logistics, especially as this relates to supply and forward operations,” the major said.

Woodward outlined several areas where the two air forces could work together to build on the UPDAF’s capacity to conduct forward operations. The UPDAF has also asked for assistance in developing a squadron officers school for officer professional development.

While the UPDAF continues to send students to professional military education courses in the U.S. via the International Military Education and Training program, development of a local school is the long-term goal, the general said.

“Air is a key component of expeditionary capability, so this is an area where we can make an impact. We are also excited about helping them to develop their officer corps and setting up a squadron officer school, which could be a boon not only to Ugandan officer professional development, but for other countries in the region and our U.S. Airmen as well,” she said.

The visit was welcomed by the UPDAF and signified the importance of the partnership, Nicholson said.

“With her limited time and 53 countries in Africa, for the general to spend two days with the UPDAF says a lot about the level of the U.S.-Uganda relationship and the relationship between air forces, and this is not lost on our partners here,” the major said.

UPDAF Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Samuel Turyagyenda said the timeliness of the visit is also significant, with his country engaged in forward operations.

“This visit is very, very important to us ― to the UPDAF and the whole armed forces because it comes at a time when we are carrying out operations in Somalia and the Central African Republic,” Turyagyenda said. “We have received a lot of help from the American military and the visit comes at a time when we are consolidating our relationship. If cooperation continues as it has in the past, I am sure all of our missions will be achieved.”

Turyagyenda said Uganda is viewed as a success story in terms of countering terror and violent extremism and that the cooperation that enables this important work must continue.

“We have been wiping out terrorists in our territory and strongly hitting back at the terrorists that our destroying innocent lives like they did during the bombing in Kampala (during the 2010 World Cup). We hope that with your continued assistance, we can go a long way and achieve our objectives,” Turyagyenda  said.

The Air Forces Africa commander and her team left Kampala with an update on the Ugandans’ shared interests and capacity building objectives before moving on to Rwanda for a one-day engagement with the Rwandan Defence Force.
“It’s important to periodically review the effectiveness of our efforts and to get together and map out the way ahead in our partnership. We’ve done that and I am very grateful to our hosts, the UPDAF and our Department of State partners at the U.S. Embassy here,” Woodward said.