by Master Sgt. Jess D. Harvey
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
9/15/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- A small program in the United States Africa Command and Air Forces Africa is making a huge impact on the African continent.
The program is the African Partnership Flight and it is AFRICOM's
premiere program to bring together partner nations to increase
cooperation and interoperability, which fosters stability and security
throughout the continent.
This year's 4-day conference, which concluded Aug. 28, was focused
solely on military medical support invited senior medical officials from
various countries on the continent to participate in a conference here
at Ramstein. Countries such as Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya,
Niger, Senegal and Uganda were represented.
"This [conference] is the AFAFRICA Surgeon General's attempt to bring
together the surgeon generals from our partners in Africa to help us
understand their capabilities, needs and gaps with regards to supporting
their [African Union] and UN peacekeeping efforts," said Maj. Gen.
Gretchen S. Dunkelberger, Air National Guard Assistant to the Air Force
Surgeon General, United States Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, District
The 55 participants spent the four days discussing all things medical,
from training opportunities that are available and capabilities each
country has to how to they could work together to provide proper care to
peacekeepers throughout the continent.
"The APF is about strengthening partnerships within Africa," said Col.
Ben EB Karenzi, Commandant of Rwanda Military Hospital. "Especially
peacekeeping operations and care for military members."
This is the third APF conference, with the first one in 2012. But this
is the first one that has been focused on bringing together the senior
Surgeon General staff members. The senior leaders in attendance were
from both the U.S. and from partner nations in Africa.
It was essential that the military medical professionals from across the
continent were brought together for this conference, according to Navy
Capt. Roland Powers, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn Of Africa
(CJTF-HOA) Surgeon General, Djibouti.
"Because of the large distances between all of the different surgeons
general on the continent, it's nearly impossible for everyone to discuss
problems face to face," said Powers. "This event affords them that
opportunity share objectives and problems all in the same room."
But, not only is the continent huge, but the militaries across it are extremely engaged right now.
"Today, Africa is enormously involved in peacekeeping operations," said
Col. Debela Achamyelesh, Medical Planner at the African Union Peace and
Security Department. "There are around 16 peacekeeping operations going
on in the world today - Nine of those are in Africa. This conference is
designed to help African medics rapidly respond in peacekeeping
operations and to deliver timely and standard medical care to our
This forum brought us together and gave us the opportunity to discuss
everything with our African partners, said Achamyelesh. "It allowed us
to discuss where we want to be five years from now."
Part of that five year plan the conference members agreed upon was how to standardize military medical training.
"Within the next five years, we should have an institutionalized
framework where all member states in the African Union should have
standardized training, said Karenzi. "So, when the African Union calls
for peacekeepers, they can all provide the same level of support. But we
can only achieve that through these types of partnerships."
All of the participants gained a lot of valuable information and a way
forward, according to Brig. Gen. Arrum Christopher, Chief of Medical
"I am very grateful that we were able to participate in this conference.
It's a very important conference. We've made new contacts with out
African partners and also forged the way forward in filling some of the
gaps we've had in the peace architecture in East Africa."