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AfriCom Officials Note Milestones, Challenges Ahead

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2008 – Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward brought the celebration of U.S. Africa Command’s activation home to Germany today as he praised those who came together to stand the command up so quickly and urged them to continue working together so it can reach its potential.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Ripka unfurls the U.S. Africa Command banner during the command's official establishment commemoration Oct. 17, 2008, in Stuttgart, Germany. Africa Command was formally activated Oct. 1 to coordinate U.S. military relationships with Africa. Defense Dept. photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dan Lapierre

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Speaking at the AfriCom’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Ward – AfriCom’s commander --thanked the visionaries who conceived of a command that brings together interagency capabilities to address challenges on the African continent, and his staff and all who worked doggedly alongside them to make it a reality.

“Without you, the establishment of this command would not have been possible,” Ward told the audience of military, governmental and diplomatic dignitaries from the United States, Africa and Germany, and his AfriCom staff. “I am proud of all that we have achieved to date, but more importantly, I am excited for the future and for what we can accomplish.”

Today’s ceremony marked the hometown commemoration of AfriCom’s Oct. 1 activation ceremony at the Pentagon. In Washington, Ward unfurled the AfriCom colors, declaring to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen that “U.S. Africa Command reports for duty!”

AfriCom will ensure effective, sustained, security cooperation programs on the African continent and its island nations that directly support U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, Ward said today at Kelley Barracks. “That’s what we are about: sustained security engagement,” he said.

“We are there for the long haul,” Ward said. “The creation of this command signifies that we are committed to it.”

AfriCom will work in tandem with other U.S. government agencies and international partners as it helps the 53 African nations create stability, security and prosperity for Africa, he said.

Ward assured the audience that AfriCom’s activities – from its military-to-military programs to military-sponsored activities and operations – won’t detract from other important efforts already under way.

“We will pursue close coordination and cooperation with international and interagency partners to ensure we complement -- and not conflict with -- their efforts on the continent,” he said.

Mark Kimmitt, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said AfriCom’s unique organizational makeup and the capabilities it brings “can only make these programs more effective.”

“What has been created is an important tool to support our comprehensive strategy for Africa,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ward said AfriCom, like all U.S. geographic commands, stands prepared to respond to crises as directed by the president and to support humanitarian assistance efforts, as needed.

“Challenges do lie ahead,” Ward told the audience. “There are also great opportunities to help build partners’ capacity and support developmental efforts.”

A more stable, more secure African continent will benefit not just Africa, but the United States and the world, he said. “We are all neighbors in our global community,” he noted.

Ward told the audience they can make a difference. He urged them to continue their close cooperation in an unprecedented new command structure to get to the important work ahead.

“There is work to be done. Let’s do it right by doing it together,” he said.

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Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward
Mark Kimmitt

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U.S. Africa Command

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