by Master Sgt. Chrissy Best
U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
9/25/2015 - NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania -- The
vibrant, white room, lined with the colorful flags of the United States
and 18 African nations, along with the 2015 African Air Chiefs
Symposium banner, seemed to welcome those bearing witness to the signing
of the charter formalizing the Association of African Air Forces in
Nouakchott, Mauritania, Sept. 17.
Designed to foster and strengthen the bonds of friendship, cooperation
and mutual support among its members, the charter outlines the continued
exchange of experiences. The charter encourages members to seek
opportunities to cooperate and collaborate to improve and support air
operations across Africa.
"This underscores the U.S. commitment to security and stability in
Africa. It is very important," said Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, 17th
Expeditionary Air Force commander.
"As airpower leaders, we can bring together our collective capabilities
and do great things for Africa," said Ray. "As an Airman, I can't think
of a more ideal location to foster air power capabilities. Africa is
tailor-made for air power solutions."
The Mauritanian Air Force co-hosted the 5th annual African Air Chiefs
Symposium alongside U.S. Air Forces Africa, Sept. 14 to 17. The forum
gives air chiefs from the United States and Africa the opportunity to
discuss topics pertinent to the future of the second largest continent
in the world and the role of air power in addressing African challenges.
"We are very grateful to have the opportunity to be able to co-host this
year's AACS event." said Mauritanian Air Force Chief of Staff Col.
Mohamed Lehreitani. "We are looking forward to continually improve our
positive relationships and partnerships between countries and have
meaningful discussions in this forum."
The four nations that signed the charter, the United States, Mauritania,
Cotê Ivoire, and Senegal, will have an equal voice within the
association, and will be recognized as the air forces or the equivalent
service of every other signing country. Other African nations in
attendance expressed willingness to sign but are still awaiting
necessary approval from their leadership.
"We are here to continue to grow and strengthen some of our existing
relationships and possibly grow new ones," Ray said. "The problems in
front of us all really take a lot of teamwork, so those relationships
Throughout the symposium, there were round-table discussions and
numerous break-out sessions on specific regional issues. Topics
included conversations on peacekeeping operations, countering violent
extremist organizations, air force development strategies, airfield
security and formalizing a network of African airmen.
"What we are having is an honest dialogue that leads to a partnership we
can all stand behind as airpower leaders," Ray said. "Together, we can
move forward from this symposium and bring those capabilities to
accomplish great things for Africa."
For some of the air chiefs it was the first time they have had an
opportunity to talk to their counterparts from other African nations.
"As we continue to hold these symposiums we'll get to know one another
more and more in the process," said Air Commodore Morgan Nyadodui, Chief
Staff Officer for the Ghana Air Force. "You'll get to trust one another
more eventually to alleviate suspicion."
Along with fostering multi-national trust, the symposium also gave U.S.
Service members a unique glimpse into the diverse culture of the various
"In order to ensure that we continue to foster our relationships, we had
events planned not only in the conference room during the day, but also
had social events in the evenings," said U.S. Air Force Col. Stephen
Hughes, the Air Forces Africa International Affairs division chief.
"One evening meal was hosted by the Mauritanian's, giving them the
opportunity to share their culture with all participants from across the
Hughes said it is essential for the United States to continue working alongside African partners.
"By continually building relationships and engaging in open discussions,
we will see this partnership pay dividends when the time comes and they
have to work together."