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Natural Fire 2011 exercise in Tanzania stresses humanitarian assistance coordination

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The power of one with the strength of many is an old adage expressing that a unified force can accomplish more than several individuals on their own. Cooperation is one of the main focuses of Natural Fire 11. The exercise is being held in Zanzibar, Tanzania from Sept. 11-22, 2011 where the United States is conducting a bi-lateral exercise. Tanzania invited Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda together for academics and a command post exercise.

Some of the major themes of NF11 are humanitarian aid and disaster relief for East Africa and how the five nations, along with the assistance of the United States, can pool their resources and truly make a difference.

"As I look around, we have Service-members from six nations and as I look at the Senior Officers, I average that each guy has at a minimum 15 years," said Lt. Col. Wayne Benjamin, Logistics Officer at AFRICOM J3/J4. "When you add up the years that's over 10,000 years of experience sitting right here in this room."

Benjamin said that he feels there's a lot that can come out of this exercise if all that experience and knowledge is combined and focused toward solving some of the challenges they [these countries] face. He said he believes that as these countries train and work together and build relationships, they build trust and they will understand each other and how each other operates so, when that time comes, it will be much easier to coalesce together.

"Individually, as nations, these nations don't have all the resources," Benjamin said. "If they combine their resources, think and train collectively and have similar plans and ideas, they'll be better able to deal with the challenges that they face in the region as a community."

Benjamin stated that learning about humanitarian aid and the non-governmental agencies administering this aid is certainly a priority of NF11 and it's the training together and cooperation of the East African nations that can best use these valuable resources.

"In Africa, there's a big logistical challenge. You have one area of the African community where people are literally starving and then in another section, you have people with an abundance of food, but the challenge is getting the food from those who have it to those who don't."

Anthony Freeman, Logistics Officer for the United Nations World Food Program, and a presenter at NF11, said he felt it was important that he introduce the UN World Food Program and what they do. The UN World Food Program is the food aid branch of the United Nations and provides food assistance during emergency situations in areas where people have a deficiency of food and are unable to produce enough food for their families.

"When I was networking yesterday and told people who I work for, a lot of people had never heard of the World Food Program, which I find a bit strange having worked in this part of the world for 15 years," Freeman said. He said he feels it's important that they establish plans, procedures and agreements to ensure that when a situation arises, everyone understands what their role is, who is responsible for what and when it will be done.

Freeman said he was very pleased to see the interactions, not only between the different nations, but also the various ranks.

"Even the more junior ranking officers have been participating and asking quite probing questions of the national disaster management, and I wasn't expecting that, so that was good for me to hear and see," said Freeman. "This sort of interaction between us shows that there's a lot of potential for this exercise to go well.

Benjamin and Freeman appear to be on the same page as the intent of this exercise... Five nations, working together toward common goals by building relationships and trust by training together, making plans and setting forth procedures.

"These countries need each other," Benjamin said, "and the more they cooperate, plan and train, the better prepared they will be when inevitably they will deal with the disastrous moments which we know will happen.

Article by Spc. Brad Miller, 326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment