Gabon commanders visit German bases

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

When it comes to air base defense, Airmen in Germany share many challenges with their partners in the African nation of Gabon. Two Gabonese air base commanders came to this conclusion as they visited Ramstein, Sembach and Spangdahlem air bases Jan. 17 to 20.

The trip, which was focused on air base defense, was orchestrated by 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) headquartered at Ramstein.

“The sorts of threats that exist in Gabon also exist here,” said Gabon air force Col. Jean Paulin Asseko Makoka, the commander of Liberville Air Force Base, who spoke through a translator. “We have spent time discussing various threats and we now have a better understanding of how the U.S. Air Force confronts these threats and the measures they take to mitigate them.”

The orientation encompasses a wide range of security forces operations at the three installations, including SF training programs. At Sembach, they took part in station training ranging from a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle familiarization to Tactical Casualty Combat Care. At Ramstein, they spent time observing everything from flightline security to K-9 operations. Among the activities on the itinerary at Spangdahlem were meetings with security forces leadership and a visit to the shooting range.

The visit was the latest in a series of capacity-building engagements between the two countries, and Gabon Col. Jean-Francois Asseko Bekogo, commander of Mvengue Air Force Base, said the visit was indicative of how positive and beneficial the relationship has been.

“There is really no limit to the possibilities of cooperation between Gabon and the U.S.,” said Colonel Asseko Bekogo through a translator. “It’s a data point for how positive the relationship is. And we are very much interested in the training. Even though there is a big difference between the assets and materiel at Ramstein versus what we have in Gabon, the tactics and techniques used here can be applied in Gabon.”

That application means increased capacity, which not only benefits the Gabonese but their partners as well. Tech. Sgt. LeighAnn Weigold, 86th Security Forces Squadron Flight Operations NCOIC, said that because security threats are universal, partner nations need to work in step to address them.

“I’ve learned that no matter what rank, what branch or even what country, everyone has security concerns,” she said. “It’s very important we be on the same page with our partners in dealing with these concerns.”

Sergeant Weigold said 86th SFS experts showed the Gabonese effective techniques that were at the same time cost effective. She was enthusiastic about the earnest attitude of the African guests and passing on techniques that will make Gabon safer for Gabonese airmen and civilians.

“They are just very warm, caring people and they really want to learn more about how we secure our bases,” she said. “It means a lot to me as a security forces member that they are going to take back and apply our techniques and if we work together in the future, we could benefit directly from these measures.”

Master Sgt. Mike Keeler, the manager for assessments and engagements of 17th AF’s security directorate, said the successful visit could not have been possible without support from the SF elements at all three installations. Defenders from the Creek Defender center at Sembach, Ramstein’s 86th SFS and Spangdahlem’s 52nd SFS provided a thorough orientation.

“We are always eager to engage with our African partners and we are especially proud when we can bring them here and show them the kind of quality people we have standing watch over our forces and resources,” Sergeant Keeler said. “Our Gabonese partners got an excellent orientation — another job well done.”