Tag Archives: 17th Air Force

Air Force continues aid to Africa

While much of the media focuses on crucial war efforts in Afghanistan, many of the other great military missions in the world that are going strong and bringing hope and help to far reaching places such as Africa…AfricomCrest_HiRes

The 17th Air Force is part of  the U.S. Africa Command which has been providing humatarian support as well as military support for a decade since even before its establisment in 2007

The 17th AF, also known as Air Forces Africa, supports U.S. Africa Command via command and control of air forces to conduct sustained security engagement and operations as directed to promote air safety, security and development. For the foreseeable future, 17th AF will operate as a functional staff without assigned weapon systems.

To ward off pirates along the African coastlines the Air Force’s very own unmanned MQ-9 Reapers sit stealthily above ready to say “ahoy” the Air Force way — with Air and Space power. Recently, a delegation of Botswana Defense Force visited Airmen of the 17th Air Force to learn about leadership though enlisted development courses.MQ-9

The team met with future enlisted leaders as well as the “seasoned” ones at the Ramstein Airman Leadership School and Kisling NCO Academy at Vogelweh Base, in Germany, near where 17th AF, also known as Air Forces Africa, is headquartered at Ramstein Air Base. They received orientations on the Air Force’s Senior NCO Academy and Chief’s Leadership Course. See story here. 090922-F-5543F-001 

While Botswana military members took back new leadership tools, they left Airmen at  the school, with a positive and lasting impression regarding the true success of the bonds and changes for good. Below is a post by Senior Master Sgt. Jim Downey, 17th AF Logistics, Installation and Mission Support, or A4/7, who shares his thoughts on what he deems a “goose bump” experience. 

“(Recently) I had the honor of sitting on a Senior NCO-NCO panel, consisting of 17th AF professionals and five very inspirational and courageous Botswana leaders:  Maj. Jenamiso Mountain, 2nd Lt. Lesedi Kelesitse, Military Command Sergeant Major Mogakolodi Sebego, Warrant Officer I Seboloko Mosimanyana and Warrant Officer II Bernard Bimbo.

 The panel was brought together to discuss Professional Military Education and more than anything to exchange our personnel PME experiences, with the Botswana leaders.  The overall purpose of the Botswana Forces visit to 17th  was to learn more about how we develop our enlisted force.

 CMSgt Farrin, the 101st Air Refueling Wing Command Chief, (who was in the course of returning from a deployment with the 449th Air Expeditionary Group at Camp Le Monier, Djibouti and was invited to take part in the visit) suggested opening the one hour panel discussion with personal introductions.

 As the Botswana leaders went around the table introducing their selves, goose bumps began to form on my arms. In those introductions we learned that we were sitting with the first Command Sergeant Major of the Botswana Defense Force, Sergeant Major Sebego and even equally (if not more) impressive, we learned we were sitting with one (out of 30) of the first women in the Botswana Defense Force (20,000 strong): Lieutenant Kelesitse. Wow! It made me think about our AF’s equivalents, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Airey and Staff Sgt. Esther Blake. Then it made me think about other transformational firsts: The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, The Tuskegee Airmen, The Women’s Armed Services Act of 1948 and President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order 9981, which ended segregation in the armed services.

 I was “awed” by Lieutenant Kelesitse’s courage and Sergeant Major Sebego’s leadership in the face of the challenges that may come with breaking these barriers.

 I asked Major Mountain how they (Botswana Leaders) prepared to deal with the challenges of women in the BDF. Major Mountain’s answer was prompt and direct.

 “This change came from our government and our leadership embraced it and made everyone aware of the introduction of women into the BDF Officer core before it actually happened,” he said.

 All five of the Botswana leaders echoed Major Mountain’s response.  Warrant Office Bimbo, compared it to “Change Management” that we learn at our Senior NCO Academy.

 “Our leadership did the unfreezing stage well and now we are in the freezing stage,” he exclaimed proudly. I should mention that Warrant Officer Bimbo is a graduate of our USAF SNCOA.

 The 17th AF panel answered questions ranging from upgrade training and PME to our experience on the continent of Africa. Additionally, the Botswana delegation taught us that referring to someone from Botswana as a “Botswanian” is wrong.  People from Botswana are called Batswana, regardless of ethnicity. Furthermore, it was interesting to learn how the BDF is currently drafting a
Professional Military Education program that they [five present BDF leaders] feel will mirror our four-tiered process (ALS, NCOA, SNCOA and the Chief’s Course).

 Major Mountain shared with us that his BDF leadership was impressed with the U.S. enlisted core after working with them on several exercises.  He stated, that they [BDF leadership] were useed to dealing with Officers on these same positions/issues when dealing with other nations.

 The panel was one hour of a four-day Botswana familiarization event hosted here at Ramstein by our personnel directorate (A1).  Master Sgt. Deb Madden and her A1 team did an “Outstanding” job!  What I learned from this one hour will be shared with our Airmen for years to come. Thanks for the opportunity!”

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To find out more on 17th AF and AFRICOM, you can interact with them on the 17th AF Facebook page and the AFRICOM Facebook page .

Airmen get to know Ghana during presidential support mission

Master Sgt. Jim Fisher is a public affairs Airman assigned to the 17th Air Force in Germany. Sergeant Fisher is currently in Ghana, Africa, as part of a joint team tasked to provide support during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit today and tomorrow. Sergeant Fisher gives us a feel for what the troops in Africa experienced as they prepared for and carry out their mission. (Check out the accompanying news story here and associated video here and here.)

Airmen, Sailors and Marines taking part in the presidential support mission in Ghana have been trying to get a sense of what life is like here. We are not shielded from the realities of Ghanaian life. Driving between our accommodations and our base in the capital of Accra reveals a lot.

Under huge posters, billboards, placards and banners welcoming our Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, stand ordinary Ghanaians. They line the streets in makeshift market stands. They wade through traffic at stop lights to peddle everything from phone cards to boiled peanuts.

Like everyone we encounter here, many smile broadly. We often hear, “Welcome. We are glad you are here.” Many Ghanaians see us as part of the President’s team, signifying his arrival.

As a member of 17th Air Force, also known as Air Forces Africa, I am happy to be perceived in such a positive light and I want to know more about these very engaging people.

In the city that is caught up in a swell of jubilation at the arrival of President Obama, you can see the destitute at every intersection. People with obvious disabilities whose only means of survival is begging. But most of the people who look curiously in the windows of our vehicles are just ordinary people. Many are working mothers trying to support their families. I know this because I have a keener insight into Ghanaian life – my driver. What the streets don’t reveal about the realities of life here, our drivers do.

My driver tells me an average Ghanaian household needs at least $10 a day to live meagerly, but the average Ghanaian salary is usually well below $300 per month. To keep his family at or above that crucial $10, his wife travels to get produce and other foodstuffs from other regions of Ghana to barter for meat or vegetables or to sell them. She could be one of the people we see moving from car to car with a large sack or basket balanced on her head.

Ghana is poor. Life here is hard for ordinary people. We admit to one another that we feel ashamed when we think about the excesses and waste that seem to surround every activity at our hotels. There are few meals served at our hotel that cost less than $10.

Life is much simpler in the average Ghanaian home. I recently gave my driver two croissants from our breakfast buffet. He said they were great and I was shocked to learn that at age 53, he had never had one before.

Maybe we expected to find things better here. Ghana is, after all, a model for democracy and stability in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of U.S. Africa Command‘s strongest partnerships on the continent. We read that this is what’s behind Ghana being President Obama’s first choice for a visit to the continent. And it is relatively safe, and relatively stable, and certainly a great example of democracy at work. Their recent Presidential election was decided by less than 40,000 votes. A peaceful transfer of power, all too rare in Africa, ensued.

But this is the developing world, and the realities of life for ordinary people here, as we’ve been learning, are not what we wish they were.

It’s times like this when I am grateful to be a member of 17th Air Force under U.S. Africa Command. I know I’ll get to play some small part in making a difference – in Ghana and many other places on the continent.

A recent discussion between several NCOs and their driver revealed that we are making an impact. While trying to dissuade the persistent attempts of a vendor at a stop light, two senior NCOs began pointing to their driver and saying, he’s the boss. The vendor was looking through to vehicle to determine who might be the leader, who would decide whether to buy or not.

The driver laughed and said, “He knows that a black man can’t be the boss.”

“Oh no,” the senior NCOs protested, “Sure he can. Hey, in our country, a black man is the boss.” Just then we were passing roadside booths filled with t-shirts and soccer jerseys featuring President Obama. The driver smiled, and nodded, conceding this was true. We were all smiling.

That’s when I really felt the impact of being at this particular place and time in history. I felt so grateful to be an American, and to be a member of U.S. Africa Command.