by Staff Sgt. Destinie Berry
621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
3/27/2015 - Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. -- Eight
members of the 621st Contingency Response Wing's 818th Mobility Support
Advisory Squadron traveled to Lusaka, Zambia to take part in a first of
its kind Department of State training event, March 21, 2015.
The team engaged with twenty members of the Zambian air force to accomplish two objectives: share ideas and to train.
The Congressional authority, under Section 1203 of the National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 enables air advisors to build
partnerships with a strategic U.S. ally while expanding their unit's air
advising capabilities at the same time.
"This is the first time the new section 1203 authority has been used by
general purpose forces to train with friendly foreign military forces,"
said Maj. Michael Morrow, 818 MSAS, 1203 mission commander. "In order to
be an effective air advisor, extensive training is necessary. Each
mission presents an opportunity to upgrade a new advisor. Normally, we
can only upgrade a maximum of two people per trip, but due to the nature
of a 1203 mission we were able to upgrade six team members."
The training events allow the department to expand and enhance partner
capacity in the African area of responsibility. They are also a key
component of the building partnership capacity efforts supporting Air
Forces Africa partnership engagement objectives, although getting the
initial approval of the Section 1203 was a lengthy process.
"Planning for any engagement in a foreign country requires close
attention to every detail for safety of the team and success of the
mission," Morrow said. "For this engagement in particular, it was a six
month process to draft the concept of operations and request authority
through Congress. Because it had never been done before, coordination
took countless phone calls, e-mails, routing, and re-writes within the
Air Force and the departments of Defense and State. To finally be in
country and interact with the Zambian air force has been extremely
According to Morrow, the extensive planning process paid off. With
upgrade training out of the way the Air Advisors were able to focus on
their main mission: sharing ideas with partner nations.
"No single country has all the knowledge and resources needed to rapidly
and efficiently mitigate every potential disaster around the world,"
Morrow said. "We need to work together and learn from each other. The
need to share best practices for humanitarian assistance and disaster
relief principles is critical. The Zambian air force showed great
enthusiasm in sharing their response methods during the discussion phase
and table-top exercise at the end. I learned so much from them in a
relatively short time."
"This first ever 1203 mission was a tremendous success," said Lt. Col.
Pete Larsen, 818 MSAS commander. "The new authority has allowed us to
strengthen our military-to-military relationship with an important
African partner to the U.S., while ensuring that our air advisors are
trained and ready to execute their building partner capacity mission."
Despite the fact that this is the first Section 1203 mission, the team has not identified any barriers to mission success.
"I was able to upgrade six members of my team and focus on working with
the partner nation smoothly," said Master Sgt. Derrick Lodge, 818 MSAS.
"It helps that the Zambian air force is an extremely professional force.
We found them to be enthusiastic for the opportunity to listen to how
the U.S. Air Force conducts humanitarian assistance missions and were
eager to share their own experiences with responding to natural
disasters here in their country as well as those in other parts of
"Our Air Force is newer," said Lt. Col. M. Mukuka, Zambian Air Force
commanding officer for 15th Squadron. "It is still growing and learning
from bigger Air Forces. The training helps to build partnerships for
future issues, giving different dimensions to work with. We are now
looking at it on a different dimension."
The 818th MSAS brought this new mission to a close, strengthening
relationships in the African AOR and strengthening the humanitarian aid
reliability in Zambia.
"I feel truly fortunate to have had this unique opportunity to focus on
training air advisors while at the same time sharing best practices on a
topic that knows no boundaries," said Lodge. "For me, there is no
higher calling than humanitarian assistance and providing relief to
those in desperate need. It was humbling to know the Zambian air force
holds that same opinion."
"This program has been very useful to us," said Lt. Col. Phiri, Zambian
air force Flying Wing for Air Transport commanding officer. "The way we
respond to disaster has improved."
"Zambia is only the first country to be involved," Larsen said.
"Follow-on 1203 engagements will go a long way to advancing
interoperability and regional stability in Africa. We are already
considering other countries that fit into AFAFRICA's strategic
objectives for the next 1203 mission."