Tuesday, April 08, 2014

In memory of the fallen: TACPs conduct 24-hour relay

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

4/8/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Members of the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron's Tactical Air Control Party participated in the annual memorial 24-hour Challenge Run from March 27 and 28 at the Alaska Dome in Anchorage.

The run, sponsored by the TACP Association, is a memorial to those who have died while serving, he said.

It started with the squadron doing a lap on the dome's track.

"After that, I did the first solo around the track," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason
Sandoval, JTAC personnel parachute program manager. "The way we're counting the miles is you can run together, or by yourself, or in pairs; you can run in sprints; how you do it is up to you. We have a guy who just enjoys running, who runs for an hour just because."
TACP personnel took turns running for 15 minutes most of the time, said Senior Airman Sergio Barcena-Turner, a 3rd ASOS joint terminal attack controller.

In the past, the squadron had an individual who chose to run 24 hours straight, putting in anywhere from 50 to 80 miles.

"Most of the guys are only going to run for 15 minutes out of the 24 hours, but there are some who will do the extra," Sandoval said. "We used to have someone who would run up to 100 miles in the 24 hours."

The 24-hour memorial run is an ASOS tradition across the Air Force, he said. They treat it as a competition.

"We compete against each other to see who can get the most miles," he said. "Some people will donate money based on how many miles we run. It depends; each unit celebrates it their own way."

The event raises funds through various pledges.

The money goes to unit morale and helping the families, Barena-Turner said.
"It's a traditional thing," he said. "The money goes back to anybody who has a hardship, back to their families per the TACP Association. It's good for the association and it brings in a little extra money."

The meaning behind the memorial run is deep, Sandoval said.

"A lot of people can't really understand some of the stuff that we do," Sandoval said. "The majority of the Air Force doesn't really understand what we do. I'm doing it because I know what it's like be on the ground, I know what it's like to have bullets whizzing by your head all the time, I know what it's like to watch my buddy get shot in the face.

"That's why I do it; it's really hard to explain that feeling to someone who's never really been there, who doesn't understand.

"To me, I can make this public, or it can be something that we do internally.

Only the brothers who have been there can really understand and appreciate what we're doing and why we're doing it."

Pentagon Officials Announce U.S. Strategic Force Structure

by American Forces Press Service

4/8/2014 - WASHINGTON -- Defense Department officials today announced a U.S. strategic force structure designed to comply with the New START Treaty.

The treaty limits the total number of deployed and nondeployed strategic delivery vehicles to 800. By Feb. 5, 2018, the total deployed and nondeployed force will consist of 454 intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, 280 submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and 66 heavy bombers.

U.S. deployed forces will consist of 400 deployed ICBMs and 240 deployed SLBMs. The Defense Department also will maintain 60 deployed nuclea-capable heavy bombers, for a total of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, the treaty limit.

In a statement announcing the strategic force structure, Pentagon officials called it a capable, survivable and balanced force that fully supports the president's national security and nuclear weapons employment strategies and maintains strategic stability and deterrence, extended deterrence and allied assurance.

The force structure maintains the commitments set forth in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the report to Congress on the president's new nuclear employment guidance, and the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review that the United States will maintain a triad of ICBMs, SLBMs and nuclear-capable heavy bombers within the central New START Treaty limits, officials said.

SELM testing begins with preparation

by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

4/8/2014 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo.  -- The 90th Missile Wing has been designated to participate in a Simulated Electronic Launch-Minuteman test April 11 through 17. The SELM testing is a test done every 6 months at one of the three missile bases on a rotating schedule, meaning each base is tested every 18 months. 

"The SELM test is a random quality assurance test of the launch facilities," said Capt. Joseph Liles, 576th Flight Test Squadron test manager. "The test is part of a full spectrum of tests to assess the reliability of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Weapon System in a realistic, deployed environment. We also verify that each launch facility's systems are able to process the launch sequence without actually launching the missile."

Six launch facilities and two launch control centers are chosen for the test based on a combination of factors, including specific test objectives and the amount of time passed since the facility had been tested, Liles said.

The official testing spans a mere 6 days, but the preparation for the test begins many months before and requires many organizations to work together to prepare for the test.

"In coordination with the wing, we spend about 6 months prior to the test creating test plans and procedures," Liles said. "The process is much longer than many people perceive. Much of the preparation is behind the scenes and never really seen by others. Every organization on base provides support in some way for the test. From the chefs that make sure the crews are fed to the maintainers who make sure each site is prepared for the test, each group performs certain responsibilities that are necessary in preparing for the test."

A major participant in both the planning phase and the testing phase is the operations group.
"The 90th Operations Group is responsible for coding all the material needed to conduct the test," said 1st Lt. Joseph Wyatt, 319th Missile Squadron ICBM Combat Crew assistant flight commander.

The group is also responsible for making sure the crew members are prepared for the test by providing a mix of training to the crews before the official testing phase begins, he added.

"While preparing for the test, we ensure the crew members are trained on all the tasks that will be conducted, which involves a lot of training from the 90th Operations Support Squadron instructors and the 576th representatives themselves," Wyatt said. "The training includes a brief lesson on what to expect as maintenance is going on and what the crew will have to accomplish after the maintenance is complete."

Another major group in the preparation phases is the 90th Maintenance Group, who is responsible for making sure each site is prepped and ready for testing.

"Our overall goal is to turn the selected launch control centers and launch facilities into their own miniature squadrons," said 1st Lt. Brandon Clements, 90th Maintenance Operations Squadron. "Our tasks include installing SELM-specific control monitors, ensuring the missiles are configured to meet all safety standards, load the test codes and isolate the communication lines to ensure the non-test sites are unaffected by the SELM commands."

The 90th MXG began preparing each, individual site, also known as posturing the SELM sites, approximately 3 weeks ago, with the final preparations for the test scheduled to be completed April 11.

The 90th MXG required a continuous effort from many Airmen as they worked towards preparing the sites, Clements said.

"Each site required 17 personnel for one day of maintenance," he added. "Those numbers are just for the teams performing the tasks on site. For each team dispatched, there was an equally impressive number of MXG, security forces and OG support. From start to finish, ensuring an effective SELM requires an above and beyond effort from everyone."

A follow-up article discussing the completion of the SELM test will be included in the April 25 paper.

Hagel Addresses China’s Future Defense Leaders

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

BEIJING, April 8, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took the stage here today, addressing military officers and students who crowded into the auditorium at the Peoples’ Liberation Army National Defense University to hear him describe China’s status as a major power and its obligation to address security challenges for the good of the region.

Hagel thanked President Xi Jinping, Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Fan Changlong, his friend State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and his host Gen. Chang Wanquan for their gracious hospitality during his visit.

“We have had wide-ranging and constructive discussions that reflect our growing cooperation,” Hagel said.

During a meeting today with Fan, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said, Hagel expressed his appreciation for the chance to build toward a new model of military-to-military relations.

The leaders shared a frank exchange of views about issues important to the United States, China and the Asia-Pacific region. They discussed regional security, including the East China and South China seas, where Hagel reaffirmed the United States' longstanding policies and commitments, and encouraged all parties to resolve differences peacefully, through diplomacy and in keeping with international law, Kirby said.

Hagel also discussed with Fan the growing threat posed by North Korean nuclear and missile developments, and urged China's continued cooperation with the international community to achieve a complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

“Today,” Hagel said, “China’s status as a major power is already solidified, built on its growing economic ties across the globe and particularly across the Asia-Pacific region.”

Last year, he added, the trade in goods and services between the United States and China exceeded half a trillion dollars. Trade between Association of Southeast Asian Nations members and China exceeded $400 billion last year, and a third of the world’s trade passes through the South China Sea.

China’s growth, coupled with the dynamism of the Asia-Pacific and America’s increasing engagement in the region, offers a historic and strategic opportunity for all nations, the secretary added.

“As our economic interdependence grows, we have an opportunity to expand the prosperity this region has enjoyed for decades,” Hagel explained. “To preserve the stable regional security environment that has enabled this historic economic expansion, the United States and China have a responsibility to address new and enduring regional security challenges alongside other partners.”

The region faces North Korea’s continued dangerous provocations, its nuclear program and missile tests, Hagel said, along with ongoing land and maritime disputes, threats arising from climate change, natural disasters and pandemic disease, proliferation of dangerous weapons, and the growing threat of disruption in space and cyberspace.

The Asia-Pacific region is the most militarized in the world, and any one of these challenges could lead to conflict, the secretary added.

“As the PLA modernizes its capabilities and expands its presence in Asia and beyond,” he said, “American and Chinese forces will be drawn into proximity, increasing the risk of an incident, accident or miscalculation. But this reality also presents new opportunities for cooperation.”

All people in the region want a future of peace and stability, Hagel added, and the costs of conflict will rise as economic interdependence grows.

“The high cost of conflict will not make peace and stability inevitable,” the secretary added, “so we must work together and in partnership with all the nations of the region, and develop and build on what President Xi and President Obama have called a new model of relations.”

The model seeks to seize opportunities for cooperation between the United States and China and enhance peace and security throughout the region, he added.

“It seeks to manage competition but avoid the traps of rivalry,” Hagel said. “And good China-U.S. relations will not come at the expense of our relations with others in the region or elsewhere.”

Realizing this vision will require commitment, effort and some new thinking for the United States and China across all dimensions of the relationship, but especially between the militaries, he added.

“Developing a new model of military-to-military relations will require a shared understanding of the regional security order we seek and the responsibilities we have to uphold it,” Hagel said. “It will require bold leadership that seeks to deepen practical cooperation in areas of shared interest, while constructively managing differences through open dialogue and candor.”

In the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide, Hagel said, the United States believes in maintaining a stable, rules-based order built on:

-- Free and open access to sea lanes, air space and cyberspace;

-- Liberal trade and economic policies that foster widely shared prosperity for all people;

-- Halting the proliferation of dangerous and destabilizing weapons of mass destruction;

-- Deterring aggression; and

-- Clear, predictable, consistent and peaceful methods of resolving disputes consistent with international law.

For its part, the secretary said, the United States has helped to provide access to global markets, technology and capital, underwritten the free flow of energy and natural resources through open seas, and maintained alliances that have helped keep the peace.

“We haven’t done it alone; we’ve done it with partners,” he said. “America’s rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific is about ensuring that America’s presence and engagement, including our relationship with China, keeps pace with the Asia-Pacific’s rapidly evolving economic, diplomatic and security environment.”

All nations have a responsibility to pursue common interests with their neighbors and settle disputes peacefully in accordance with international law and recognized norms, the secretary added.

“But as a nation’s power and prosperity grows, so does its responsibilities,” Hagel said. “And whether the 21st century is one marked by progress, security and prosperity will depend greatly on how China and other leading Asia-Pacific powers meet their responsibilities to uphold a rules-based order.”

Disputes in the South China and East China seas must be resolved through international norms and laws, he said.

“The United States has been clear about the East and South China Sea disputes,” Hagel said. “We do not take a position on sovereignty claims but we expect these disputes to be managed and resolved peacefully and diplomatically, and oppose the use of force or coercion. And our commitment to allies in the region is unwavering.”

The secretary said he believes the new model of military-to-military relations should proceed on three tracks: First, maintaining sustained and substantive dialogue; second, forging concrete, practical cooperation where the two countries’ interests converge; and third, working to manage competition and differences through openness and communication.

The foundation for military-to-military cooperation between the United States and China must be a sustained and substantive dialogue, Hagel said. The engine for this dialogue has been high-level exchanges, he added, and it must continue and increase. This, in particular, has been an area of notable progress, he said.

“Bilateral exchanges and visits are planned, and earlier today General Chang and I agreed on two important new mechanisms,” Hagel said. We will establish a high-level Asia-Pacific security dialogue, and we will create an army-to-army dialogue. These will deepen substantive military discussions and institutional understanding.”

Already, he said, the two nations have identified nontraditional security missions as areas of clear mutual interest, including counterpiracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military medicine, and maritime safety.

Hagel said one example of practical cooperation in areas where the United States and China can do more is the annual disaster management exchange held between militaries, and with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Last November’s exchange, held in Hawaii, included the first exercise involving PLA troops on U.S. soil.

The United States has taken significant steps to be more open with China about its capabilities, intentions and disagreements, the secretary said. “And we will continue to welcome initiatives by China to do the same, particularly as China undertakes significant military modernization efforts,” he added.

Hagel said he and others are asking China to work more closely with the United States and regional partners on another shared challenge where there is a disagreement: responding to the dangerous destabilizing behavior of North Korea.

The North Korean regime’s nuclear program and its recent missile launches in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions pose a continued and stark challenge and threat to the U.S. homeland, Hagel said. America will continue to respond to North Korea’s actions by reinforcing its allies and increasing deterrence, he added, including through his announcement this week that the United States will deploy two additional ballistic missile defense ships to Japan.

This builds on other steps to bolster regional missile defense, the secretary said, including building a second radar site in Japan and expanding ground-based interceptors in Alaska.

Joint Staff Official Discusses Russian Military Evolution

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2014 – Russia’s conventional military is a regional power, but has limited capability for global power projection, the Joint Staff’s director for strategic plans and policy told Congress today.

Navy Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe discussed the evolution of Russian conventional military power during testimony alongside Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, before the House Armed Services Committee.

“Today, Russia is a regional power that can project force into nearby states, but it has very limited global power projection capability,” Pandolfe said. “It has a military of uneven readiness. While some units are well trained, most are less so.”

Pandolfe said the Russian military “suffers from corruption, and its logistic capabilities are limited.”

“Aging equipment, infrastructure and demographic and social problems will continue to hamper reform efforts,” he added.

The U.S. military, in contrast, employs a military of global reach and engagement, Pandolfe said.

“The readiness of our rotationally deployed forces is high,” he said. “We are working to address readiness shortfalls at home. And we operate in alliances, the strongest of which is NATO.”

Composed of 28 nations, Pandolfe said, NATO is the most successful military alliance in history.

“Should Russia undertake an armed attack against any NATO state, it will find that our commitment to collective defense is immediate and unwavering,” the admiral said.

At the height of its military power, Pandolfe said, the Soviet Union was truly a global competitor. “With millions of people under arms, a vast number of tanks and planes, a global navy and an extensive intelligence gathering infrastructure,” he said, “the Soviet military machine posed a very real threat.”

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Pandolfe said, its arsenal fell into disrepair. Starved of funding and fragmented, he added, Russian military capability decayed throughout the 1990s.

“From the start of his term in 2000, President [Vladimir] Putin made military modernization a top priority of the Russian government,” he said.

When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, a number of shortcomings were noted in its military performance” Pandolfe said.

This led the Russian government to further increase investment in its military services, and since 2008, those efforts have had some success, the admiral told the panel.

“Russian military forces have been streamlined into smaller, more mobile units,” Pandolfe explained. “Their overall readiness has improved, and their most elite units are well trained and equiped. They now employ a more sophisticated approach to joint warfare. Their military has implemented organizational change, creating regional commands within Russia.”

Pandolfe said these regional commands coordinate and synchronize planning, joint service integration, force movement, intelligence support and the tactical employment of units.

“Finally, the Russian military adopted doctrinal change placing greater emphasis on speed of movement, the use of special operations forces, and information and cyber warfare,” he said.

They instituted snap exercises, the admiral said, with these no-notice drills serving the dual purpose of sharpening military readiness and inducing strategic uncertainty as to whether they would swiftly transition from training to offensive operations.

Pandolfe noted Russia’s military objectives are “difficult to predict,” but said it is clear that Russia is sustaining a significant military force on Ukraine’s border.

“This is deeply troubling to all states in the region and beyond,” he said. “And we are watching Russia military movements very carefully.”

The admiral noted he recently spoke with Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.

“He is formulating recommendations for presentation to the North Atlantic Council on April 15,” Pandolfe said. “These recommendations will be aimed at further reassuring our NATO allies. As part of this effort, he will consider increasing military exercises, forward deploying additional military equipment and personnel and increasing our naval, air and ground presence.”

Breedlove will update members of Congress on those recommendations at the earliest opportunity, Pandolfe said.

JBER teen named Air Force Military Child of the Year

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheila DeVera
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/8/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- "Hey Gage, come downstairs; you're in trouble," Tobias Adam's voice rang out through the family home.

"Oh, darn," his 17-year-old son, Gage Dabin, thought. "What did I do now?"

While bracing himself for the worst, Dabin was instead pleasantly surprised when his parents told him he had won the Air Force Military Child of the Year award.

"It was pretty cool," Dabin said. "I was so happy."

The Air Force Military Child of the Year award is given out each year by officials with Operations Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. The award recognizes outstanding military children who demonstrate resiliency, leadership and personal achievement. Recipients representing each service branch receive their award at Washington, D.C.

Just a typical teenager waiting on college admissions, Dabin was selected as the Air Force representative from more than 1,000 military children across the nation and around the world.

"I was surprised, but am honored to represent the Air Force," the 17-year-old said.

When the Kennecott Youth Center staff reached out to Dabin and said they wanted to submit a package for him for the Air Force MCOY, he was doubtful.

Dabin, who had been busy with college applications, essays and homework, had one stipulation: "If I do not have to do any more essays or any more work, you can sign me up," he said.

"I honestly thought I was not going to win," the Bartlett High School senior said.

Senior Master Sgt. Tobias Adam, a 673d Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief, kept his son out of the loop when Dabin made the top five finalists because he wanted his son to focus on school.

"Gage has a lot of things on his mind as we come toward the end of the year, like getting ready to graduate," Adam said. "I knew that if I told him about it, he would anticipate the announcement."

Lisa Dalton, 673d Force Support Squadron Youth Program manager, recognized the 17-year-old's hard work.

"He truly exemplifies leadership, resiliency and compassion for others," Dalton said. "He is the first to volunteer for his fellow man, regardless of the task at hand - from feeding the homeless to assisting with a classroom full of kindergartners."

The 673d FSS Youth Program teams have watched Dabin grow since 2010. The high school senior greatly impressed his peers, staff and community members with his level of commitment to the program and to the service learning opportunities, at which he excels, said Seante Banks, youth center team coordinator.

"We are honored to be part of Gage's journey," Dalton said. "We have watched him grow from an uncertain and shy high school freshman to the strong confident leader he is today."

Banks submitted the package, showing Dabin is involved in four organizations: National Honor Society, Kennecott Keystone Club, Youth Advisory Board and the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

"His work ethic is truly amazing and it amazes me," Adam said. "I have to ask him to stop doing homework and spend family time with us."

Dabin's accomplishments include Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson Youth of the Year, Pacific Air Forces Youth of the Year and the State of Alaska Military Youth of the Year for 2013 and 2014.

"Every child has potential," Adam said. "When you see your child has inner desire, focus it. Focus on the energy. If you see it, focus it and push them."

"He stood strong in the face of multiple permanent change of station moves with his family and several deployments placing his father in harm's way," Bank said. "It has always been during the times of family stress and uncertainty that his leadership and love has carried him through."

"We have no doubt that this young man will one day change the world," Dalton said.

Dabin will receive his award on April 10 during the sixth annual award gala in Washington, D.C., which will include a laptop computer and a $5,000 cash prize.

Partnerships Key to Solving African Problems, DOD Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2014 – Cooperation - internationally and on the continent - is changing Africa, defense officials said here today.

Partnerships among the nations of the continent, among international allies and among both groups are giving African nations the resources and hand they need to prosper, and the Defense Department has a role in this, said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs.

Dory spoke with Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. Africa Command during a Pentagon news conference.

"The department's focus in Africa is to foster stability and prosperity," she said. "And in the security realm, this means a focus on building partnership capacity, both at the institutional level and the operational level."

The department has a number of partners across many levels, Dory said. This starts with individual African states and progresses up to regional organizations that focus on security and economic matters. It culminates on the continent, with the African Union. Within the U.S. government, she added, key partners are the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Other agencies - such as the Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security departments - also play important roles, she said.

"So sometimes when we talk about partnership, it's fair to ask us, ‘Which partners are you referring to?’ because we have many," Dory said.

Partnerships require patience, coordination and hard work, Dory said, but they do pay off. She pointed to Sierra Leone and Liberia as two examples of countries that had problems and now are actually providing peacekeepers for other countries in the region.

But not all on the African continent is brightness and light, Dory said, as terrorists, criminal organizations, militias, corrupt officials and pirates continue to exploit ungoverned and under-governed territory on the continent and in its surrounding waters. "The potential for rapidly developing threats, particularly in fragile states, including violent public protests and terrorist attacks, could pose acute challenges to U.S. interests," she said.

And while the core of al-Qaida has been degraded, affiliates have expanded into new areas, such as the Maghreb and the Sahel regions, Dory said. "In our globalized world,” she added, “groups that are viewed as distant from U.S. territory are able to threaten our interests, citizens, and personnel in other regions, as well as those of our partners."

More investments are needed on the continent Dory said -- not necessarily military hardware or training, but in State Department and USAID funds for democracy and governance programs. The money spent now is "minuscule," she added.

Many African nations have bought into democracy, the deputy assistant secretary said, but the quality of the elections needs to be improved.

"These are the types of resources that help in terms of promoting civic action, freedom of the press, independent electoral commissions in various countries, and they are absolutely under pressure," she said. "And I think

from a DOD perspective, we understand that elections - good elections - serve as a conflict prevention mechanism, in a sense, and where you don't have that kind of ability for the people to have a voice and for change of power on some basis, that's where the tensions seem to build, and occasionally explode."

Africa Presents Challenges, Opportunities to U.S. Command

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2014 – In Africa, success sometimes lives right next to failure.

“The African continent presents significant opportunities and challenges,” said Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. Africa Command. The general and Amanda J. Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, spoke during a Pentagon news conference today.

“Much of the continent is doing well, with six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies and many countries strengthening their democratic institutions [and] a growing and youthful population which can be an engine for positive change or a negative force if not effectively governed,” the general said.

But sometimes right next to these successful nations are those with perennial and lasting problems. Weak governance, corruption, uneven development, disease, food insecurity, crime and violent extremism have contributed to instability and conflict, he said.

“The network of al-Qaida and its affiliates’ participation in illicit trafficking networks that link Africa with North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia have taken advantage of regional instability to continue to expand their activities,” Rodriguez said.

Africa Command is working with international and interagency partners to mitigate those immediate threats. The command also is working to develop African security institutions and forces to serve their nations and their people.

The command’s efforts are always conducted in support of efforts led by the U.S. ambassadors and the country teams, the general said. “Our programs, exercises and operations strengthen military-to-military relationships in a region where the United States has little forward presence,” Rodriguez said. “They make U.S. and partner forces more effective as we learn from each other and operate together. They also promote adherence to the rule of law and respect for civilian authority and human rights.”

Somalia is a good example of how the command works with African and international partners, Rodriguez said. “In Somalia, six African countries participate in the African Union mission in Somalia,” he added, conducting offensive operations with the Somali national army against Al-Shabaab.

The African Union and European Union are training Somali national army forces, the general said. Multinational counterpiracy operations, combined with industry best practices, have greatly reduced piracy off the Somali coast, he noted. Africom is supporting State Department-led peacekeeping training for African Union forces, and the command is helping with planning and coordination for the Somalia mission.

The command is operating throughout the continent, the general said. In the Sahel region of the continent, Africa Command is building partner capacity and supporting regional, United Nations and French operations. “Across Africa, we continue to work with the State Department to protect U.S. personnel and facilities,” he added.

The command also working with regional partners to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, and U.S. and African forces are looking to reduce the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa.

“Africa’s expanding security challenges make it vitally important that we align all our resources with our priorities, leveraging partnerships and increasing our operational flexibility,” Rodriguez said. “We will continue to deepen our collaboration with international and interagency partners to advance our mutual interests.”