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African Nations Prepare to Test Communications Systems

American Forces Press Service

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Feb. 17, 2006 – More than 25 African and European nations gathered here Feb. 14 to 16 for a concept planning conference for exercise Africa Endeavor 06.

The exercise is slated for July 2006 in Pretoria, South Africa, and will be the first major U.S.-sponsored forum in Africa to focus on the ability of coalition communication systems to work together.

"Interoperability is the call for our forces in a forward-deployed situation," Bereng Mtkimulu, director of the African Union's Peace Support Operations Division, told conference participants here Feb. 14. "Africans must determine its pace and vision, and the concept plan created during this conference must be homegrown and reflect the character of 'Africanness.'"

With the support of the African Union, U.S. and African military communicators finalized their concept plans to be tested in July with the end goal of better supporting the African Union and its African Standby Force.

U.S. European Command modeled Africa Endeavor after Combined Endeavor, a NATO and Partnership for Peace exercise held annually in Europe for the past seven years. Combined Endeavor allows the alliance's members to test and improve the ability of the various nations' communications equipment to work together.

The experiences and lessons learned from past Combined Endeavor exercises have and continue to lead to coalition successes in military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for humanitarian efforts such as the recent earthquake in Pakistan, said Army Lt. Col. Kevin Warthon, exercise director.

During African Endeavor, participating African nations will test their respective communications systems in hopes of achieving the same successes.

"Collectively and cooperatively, Africa will take ownership of Africa Endeavor," Warthon said. "EUCOM can offer years of Combined Endeavor success stories, but in the end, the interoperability test document that is developed will be based on Africa's peace-support operations."

During the Addis Ababa planning conference, nations presented detailed information on their respective military missions as well as their command, control and communications capabilities and shortfalls. This information will drive what interoperability testing they will conduct during the July exercise, Warthon said.

The U.S. Joint Interoperability Test Command from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., will assist during African Endeavor with testing and follow-up documentation.

After a thorough assessment of the participating nations' capabilities during the exercise, EUCOM officials will help establish a baseline for interoperability among those nations, Warthon explained. In the past, several African nations observed or participated in Combined Endeavor exercises, where they gained a greater understanding of proven coalition communication standards.

(Based on a news release from U.S. European Command.)

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Related Sites:
U.S. European Command
U.S. Joint Interoperability Test Command

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