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WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2009 – The largest U.S. Defense Department-sponsored exercise in Africa this year yielded many important lessons, the commander of U.S. Army Africa said yesterday.
Army Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III discussed Natural Fire 10 -- a multinational partnership that brought together troops from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States -- during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable.
“We came together as friends and partners, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m absolutely amazed at the achievements that were accomplished there and the outcome and progress made during the month of October,” Garrett said. The 10-day exercise, held during October in Uganda, allowed multiple countries not only to achieve lasting partnerships, but also to help the people of Africa, he added.
“[The exercise] was a humanitarian and disaster-relief exercise that was designed to enhance our partner participating nations’ capabilities to work together to develop regional solutions to the complex humanitarian emergencies,” Garrett said. Medical and dental professionals treated more than 11,500 people, and even delivered two babies in northern Uganda, he said.
U.S. Army Africa missions are geared toward sustained security engagements with African land forces to promote security, stability and peace within Africa, Garrett explained. The command is the Army component of U.S. Africa Command.
In addition to the medical services provided, partner nations also tailored the exercise to focus on global health threats. Leaders and exercise participants came together in Kampala and Entebbe during a simulated natural disaster to learn how to address a global health threat that required international support and coordination.
“As we look at the future in Africa and other places in the world, [we’re] making sure that we have the capacity to deal with that, which is frankly why we’re in Africa, [to help them achieve self-sustaining African security capacity,” Garrett said.
The “tabletop exercise,” he said, was the largest and most comprehensive pandemic response exercise conducted in Africa to date.
“It included not only the participating countries in the exercise, the six nations, but also a very large international contingent and U.S. government and interagency representatives,” Garrett said.
The training provided for the global health threat was tailored toward logistic and medical support and security concerns. He added that the training targeted the procedures required to disseminate vaccines effectively during this type of threat.
“If a civilian health ministry needed trucks to move vaccines into an area, they needed to understand the procedures to reach out and gain those trucks and drivers and bring it all to bear and create a convoy, move the vaccines out, secure the vaccines, distribute the vaccines [and] administer the vaccines,” Garrett said.
Aside from medical and dental assistance, the exercise also allowed participants to complete three extensive construction projects as part of the community outreach. Although the exercise lasted for only about two weeks, many things were accomplished that can be used as prevention for future global health threats and pandemic outbreaks, Garrett said.
“I think the greatest accomplishments are the relationships that were fostered and created during the exercise and will continue as we go into the future and [the potential to] maintain these relationships as we work to achieve self-sustaining African security capacity,” the general said.