Team building underway during run up to Natural Fire 10
By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa
ENTEBBE, Uganda – While the kickoff of Natural Fire 10 is still a few
days away, Soldiers from several East African nations are flowing into
this resort town near Lake Victoria.
Already, friendships are building among participants of the multi-national military partnership exercise – bonds that will carry them through the coming weeks’ challenges and beyond.
“As we prepare for the upcoming training, we are working together and learning from each other,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Sweeton, a U.S. Army Africa operations NCO. “We’re looking forward to putting our team to the test.”
The trials ahead include a tabletop exercise in Entebbe and Kampala that will challenge staff officers in their response to a simulated disaster scenario. Supporting the effort, Sweeton and a crew of U.S. Army Africa Soldiers toiled long hours in the recent days to establish a mobile command post at Entebbe airfield.
“We’ve trained hard to establish a DJC2, a deployable joint command and control center, at U.S. Army Africa headquarters in Vicenza, Italy,” Sweeton said. “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this.”
At the airfield, Sgt. Lucky Tagaloa, 33, a motor pool sergeant from American Samoa, calls out directions Staff Sgt. Lowell Passon, 24, of Middletown, Conn., who sits behind the wheel of a Humvee. Passon’s vehicle tows a trailer full of gear that a CH-47 Chinook helicopter will transport to Kitgum.
Nearby, U.S. Army Sgt. Greg Childers, 28, of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., and U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Demtrius Harris, 29, of Warren , Ark., both from the 290th Joint Communication Support Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla., set up phone and internet connectivity using the latest technology. They search for a clear signal from a satellite orbiting high above the planet.
Establishing that connection is key for U.S. Army Africa staff to have phone and internet capabilities within the mobile command center nearby, he said.
“When everyone rolls in, they want this system tested and fully operational,” Harris said.
Operating in Africa poses unique challenges with high-tech equipment, with the humidity and unique geography, not to mention using a different satellite than in other parts of the world, Harris said, as he checks data on his laptop computer.
Nearby, Army Staff Sgt. Chris Donahue, 31, of Tampa, Fla., is testing more communication gear.
“This is a rapid response kit, an initial entry setup that we will move forward and use in Kitgum,” Donahue said.
Soldiers from the five East African partner nations are moving toward Kitgum, to join U.S. troops in the northern region of Uganda.
“Through our interaction we gain a mutual understanding of how our militaries operate,” said Lt. Col. David Konop, U.S. Army Africa’s spokesman. “We learn from them, and they learn from us.”
U.S. Army Africa is committed to a long-term partnership that builds capacity within African partner nations, Konop said.
While preparations are underway for operations in Kitgum, troops began arriving this week in Uganda. The roots of Natural Fire exercise goes back more than a decade, scheduled every two years. This year, Natural Fire 10 offers and opportunity for East African Community (EAC) Partner Nations and the U.S. military to work together on a humanitarian assistance mission.
Roughly, 550 U.S. personnel will take part in the exercise, which begins in mid-October and lasts 10 days. The East African and U.S. troops will then depart Uganda for their home stations.
U.S. Army Africa was invited by the Ugandan government to take part, Konop said. All of the preparations were carried out in close coordination with officials from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania, he said.
“This exercise is an example of the U.S. Government’s commitment to
strengthening our relationship and increasing our ability to operate
together to promote security, stability and peace in Africa,” Konop
Cleared for public release.
Photos by Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Africa
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