Ham Welcomes Regionally Aligned Brigade Focused on Africa
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
THEBEPHATSHWA AIR BASE, Botswana, Aug. 21, 2012 The commander of U.S. Africa Command said he welcomes the arrival next spring of an Army brigade to support U.S. engagement on the African continent.
Army Gen. Carter Ham at closing ceremonies for exercise Southern Accord in Botswana, Aug. 16, 2012. U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Adam Fischman
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham was referring to the arrival of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Fort Riley, Kan. The unit will become the main force provider for security cooperation and partnership-building missions in Africa.
The “Dagger Brigade” will also become the first Army unit to be regionally aligned with a specific unified combatant command. Under the new arrangement, brigades will be on deck for their mission for a full year to perform security cooperation when needed, but not operational or regular warfare missions, Army officials said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno called the plan “a new model for building partnerships” that enhances ongoing Army security cooperation missions while developing soldiers’ familiarity with a region where they may operate.
“The most important thing that this does for us in Africa Command is, it provides us predictability,” Ham said during an interview here with Soldiers Radio and Television Service correspondent Gail McCabe at the conclusion of exercise Southern Accord.
“Because of the levels of forces, particularly Army and Marine forces that have been committed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last couple of years, it has been difficult to get the forces that are necessary for exercises or military-to-military engagements, for training, with any degree of predictability,” Ham said.
With no troops directly assigned to it for Africa, Africom has relied heavily since its standup in 2007 on its service components: U.S. Army Africa, based in Vicenza, Italy; U.S. Air Forces Africa, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and U.S. Marine Forces Africa and Special Operations Command Africa, both based in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result, many of its engagements have been conducted by reserve-component forces.
Ham said that won’t change with the arrival of an active Army brigade, tentatively set for March. “We will continue to rely very, very heavily on the National Guard and reserve component from all the services,” he said.
In the past, the Army Africa Command was limited by what forces the service had available to support requirements in Africa, an arrangement Ham called “unsatisfying.”
Ham said the regionally aligned brigade concept opens the door to a whole range of opportunities. It essentially says to Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahue, commander of U.S. Army Africa, “Here is a brigade that I am going to make available to you to use however you see being necessary for … about a year,” Ham said. That, he added, empowers Donahue to be able to say, “Yes, I will provide this force,” when asked, whether the requirement is for engineers, intelligence, signal or logistics specialists or other experts.
While welcoming the availability of additional forces, Ham underscored that the United States will continue to maintain a “light footprint” on the continent.
“We don’t need big forces. We don’t want big forces in Africa,” he said. “We want tailored forces for specific purposes, for specific periods of time, to partner with our African counterparts. And that seems to work pretty effectively.”
Ham told reporters here he looks forward to seeing more of these tailored engagements in Africa as U.S. operations draw down in Afghanistan.
“We are hopeful we will see, in the coming years, greater availability of American forces to participate in training exercises across the continent,” he said. “More availability of forces will enable us to partner with more African countries in the years to come.”