Major General William B. Garrett III is the Commanding General, Southern European Task Force, which is the U.S. Army component assigned to the newest regional command, Africa Command. His headquarters, in Vicenza, Italy, has a staff of about 300 soldiers, and they are currently supporting about 600 Army soldiers deployed in Africa. Some 400 Army troops are involved with Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa while the remainder are on various missions throughout the continent.
General Garrett discussed the lack of previous attention to Africa from the Army and the United States in general. Until now, missions have usually involved evacuating non-combatants or disaster assistance. That is changing with the military’s commitment to sustained security engagement.
The Army is not just interested in one shot missions but is beginning to build relationships and to partner with various nations, their militaries, and a number of non-governmental agencies that operate in Africa. Garrett chose to use Secretary of State Clinton’s term “smart power” to describe this new approach.
The General gave three examples of current missions. A two man team just returned from Rwanda where they had helped train the Rwandan Army in air operations. Two Army officers are teaching at the Ethiopian War College. In Liberia, two Army non-coms have just arrived to help the Liberians establish a Non Commissioned Officers Training Academy.
When asked about our NATO allies and their interests in Africa, Garrett pointed to the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units, COESPU. This is a training facility located in Vicenza, Italy and operated by the Italian Carabinieri. Supported by the G-8 nations, with funding from the U.S. State Department, this facility trains security forces from Africa. The nations receiving training, in turn, commit to participation in peacekeeping duties on the African continent.
The structure and personnel requirements for this command are evolving. The General stated that he currently had more requests for assistance than he can fill. As Africa Command and U.S. Army Africa grow into their roles, he foresees the expansion of both organizations.
Garrett described U.S. Army – Africa as a 21st Century organization. In that regard, he touts his ability to draw on the unique skills found in the active National Guard and Reserve forces. He points out that the Regular Army does not have many experts in drilling wells, where that skill is easily found in the Guard or Reserves.
General Garrett does not see the Army having a large footprint on the continent. Its missions will continue to be to work with partner nations and their militaries, and with other U.S. agencies, NGO’s and others to improve security in the region.