Exercise Africa Endeavor 2009 ran from September 29 until October 8 this year. This is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities, and is planned to become an annual exercise.

BARAKA, Gabon - Participants of a communications exercise called Africa Endeavor conduct collaborative radio and data testing at the Gabonese Army Camp in Baraka, Gabon, October 5, 2009. Africa Endeavor is an annual, U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities. Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations participated in this year's exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Samara Scott)

BARAKA, Gabon - Participants of a communications exercise called Africa Endeavor conduct collaborative radio and data testing at the Gabonese Army Camp in Baraka, Gabon, October 5, 2009. Africa Endeavor is an annual, U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities. Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations participated in this year's exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Samara Scott)

Of course when the US is coordinating communications between the military organizations of 25 African countries, the US has very convenient access into their communication systems. This will be very useful for the United States in developing, coordinating, and deploying proxy armies in the quest for oil and natural resources. It will also be very useful if any of these militaries is allied against the United States at a later date. The United States will find it much easier to tap into their communication systems.

In advantaging African militaries far beyond any other sector of society with money and attention in these 25 countries and more, the US is preparing a large new cadre of potential leaders for military coup governments across the continent. This will be convenient for the US military who will already be familiar with these individuals and their organizations, and well used to working with them.

As Victoria Lakshmi Hamah writes:

The basic goal of US military programmes is to provide for the security of the local political elite and economic hit men and to insulate them from the social consequences of their economic decisions. Its orientation of African military officers will also ensure that there will be no possible rise of nationalist governments that will aim at the nationalization of oil and mineral production. A political elite isolated and insulated from the prevailing social conditions will have no incentive to protect even the existing semblance of democratic culture.

DefenceWeb publishes more information about Africa Endeavor in Exercise Africa Endeavour strengthens military capabilities and communication.

Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations came together in Gabon, September 29, 2009, to participate in Exercise Africa Endeavor, an annual US Africa Command-sponsored initiative to assist African militaries with improving their communications capabilities.
The exercise focuses on two important areas of military communications: data, which includes the hardware and software of computer networks, and radio, used to send voice and data transmissions. On October 1, Zambian service members joined with Marines from US Marine Forces Africa to practice their skills with a communication check.

Marine Sergeant Zach D. Zapotoski, exercise data chief/lead planner, said the purpose of the exercise was to bring communicators from throughout the various economic regions of Africa to evaluate and standardize communication plans.

“We are testing to ensure that all of the different kinds of gear that each participant uses is compatible,” Zapotoski said “Through this process we are collecting data, identifying gaps and shortfalls, and then working to address the areas where those gaps occur.”

According to Marine Captain Dave Fuller, exercise technical director, the effort to standardize is one of the main goals of the exercise. “The first goal is to increase the interoperability with the countries that are going to be working with each other in the different African Standby Forces,” Fuller said.

Because each nation brings different capabilities, experience levels and operating methods, establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs) is key to future success, said Marine Sergeant Ryan Kish, exercise test network coordinator.

“The most important thing is that we are establishing SOPs,” Kish said. “It’s important because as the African nations work together in the future or when we work with them in the future, we can have that data to look at to see what worked and what needs a solution.”

In addition to the technical and professional aspects of the exercise, Fuller said .

“Our second goal is to pair up these nations to not only build up partner relations between us, but also to create and bolster partnerships between the African countries as well,” Fuller said.

Establishing Interoperability

The exercise is broken down into phases in order to establish the SOPs and collect all of the necessary data.

Both the radio and data portions have three phases of execution throughout the exercise.

According to Valencia, in the first phase of the radio portion of the exercise, each nation uses internal testing to ensure that everyone’s equipment is compatible and functioning properly.

“Each nation generally has the same types of gear, but brands and capabilities vary,” Valencia said. “So, in this first phase we are ironing out compatibility issues to get the ball rolling for the next phase.”

During the first phase, Valencia said all of the internal testing happens between radios on the site here.

From the testing phase, the radio communicators move to phase two where they reach back to their home nation to establish communications.

During phase three, participants communicate from the host site to sites within other countries.

“We are taking the results of the various tests and compile them into a single package that can be used for future reference,” Valencia said.

Zapotoski said the phases for the data portion of the exercise run along similar lines as the radio portion. During the first phase, each nation partnered with one other nation and constructed and tested their network.

During the second phase, the nations are building and testing a series of interconnected computers that share data within their associated economic region.

In the last phase, the regional networks will be tied together to simulate a wide area network.

“Our goal is to be able to identify and configure a routing protocol that can be used to communicate on a basic level,” Zapotoski said.

Building Strong Relationships

A quick visit to one of the tents or buildings on the site reveals that the exercise involves even more than technical exploits and data gathering.

Fuller said the exercise has provided the US and African participants with an opportunity to build professional and personal relationships.

“It’s a rare opportunity to interact with military representatives from 25 different countries at one time,” Kish said. “So there have been plenty of chances to interact with each other and share in each other’s culture.”

“The whole experience has been tremendous,” Augustine said. “In the sense that we are all Africans and we each face similar problems, being able to cooperate and work together to solve some problems is very nice.”

According to Fuller, various events designed to increase interaction and cultural sharing are built into the exercise itself, including traditional meals, social gatherings, team sports and even the exercise’s location, which is held in a different country each year to promote cultural exchange.

For this year’s exercise, even the initial and mid planning conferences were held in different countries.

“That’s what this exercise is really all about,” Fuller said. “Getting on the same sheet of music, as far as communication is concerned, and building those relationships so that either these partner nations can work together in the future.”

I like what Augustine says above, if solving problems means solving them for all of society. I very much fear most of the problem solving will be aimed at solving the problems entrenched elites and authoritarian governments face protecting their power and privilege from the rights,  needs and desires of the people they govern.

The US military is full of good people with excellent intentions and with high degrees of skill and professionalism. It is fun and a privilege to work with them. But the overall intentions of US leadership, and its corporate power brokers, may not always be so benign.