For five days this month, U.S. airmen deployed from New Jersey and Germany to Djibouti to train with airmen there and from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Their mission falls under the Air Force’s African Partnership Flight. In its third year of operations, the program focuses on working with air forces in different parts of Africa to improve their airlift ability to better respond to contingencies in their region.
“Our end state is to really give our partners a greater aviation capacity and basically mutually support air operations when the time requires,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Leonard, an experienced loadmaster working with U.S. Air Forces in Europe/Air Forces Africa headquarters. “By having us discuss and demonstrate all together … increases interoperability across the board.”
For this event, from Feb. 7-11, Djibouti told the U.S. they were interested in learning about four specific aspects of air mobility operations: crash fire rescue, load planning, aircraft maintenance and flight line security.
U.S. airmen trained with airmen from Djibouti and the guest nations on a Djiboutian Let-410 transport aircraft.
“I notice that even though the different air forces are geographically separated, we all deal with a lot of similar issues,” said Master Sgt. Jerome Williams, a firefighter with the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “We’ve come up with different solutions to those problems, and we’ve learned from each other to make our different air forces better.”
The partnership flight began in 2012 with an event in Ghana. After a pause in 2013 due to budget restrictions, the service hosted three more events in 2014 – in Senegal, Angola and Mauritania – and hopes to have another later this year in southern Africa for the first time. The specific country has not been selected yet.
“Any time you’re able to establish or improve relationships, personal or professional, you may not see results then, but later on down the line you’ll be able to see a benefit,” Williams said. “You are able to talk and share and exchange. No matter what you thought of before, everyone is leaving this African partnership flight with a different perspective that what they may have had when [they] entered in.”
Read More:U.S. airmen train with African air forces.