ACCRA, Ghana – Ghanaian, Benin, Togolese, Senegalese, Nigerian and U.S. air force members hit the flightline loading, guarding and marshaling aircraft March 21 during the African Partnership Flight 12-2 capstone event here.
The capstone gave all nations involved in the partnership-building flight the opportunity to share lessons learned through the exchange of ideas, techniques and practices to improve each air force’s capability to secure peace and stability in the region.
“I think today’s activities were a fantastic example of what can be accomplished when we bring a bunch of nations to partner together on a multinational level,” said CMSgt. David Williamson, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe command chief. “It was just incredible to see those different uniforms from different nations all work together toward a common purpose and a common goal.
“The professionalism and skills displayed left me with a very good impression of our African partner nations,” Williamson said. “It also made me very proud of our Airmen as well because they’re down here doing a fantastic job and being incredible ambassadors for not just our Air Force, but our nation.”
The event kicked off with load-crews building a pallet to load onto a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules guarded by security forces members. The security forces members used skills attained throughout APF 12-2 to guard the aircraft and crew against unauthorized personnel, and inspect loads and vehicles on the flightline.
U.S. Air Force security forces put their partner nations’ knowledge to the test, approaching the flightline to challenge the partner nations’ flightline security. As soon as the the flightline’s security was threatened, the APF security members used challenge techniques to put the unauthorized personnel on their faces, eliminating them as a threat to the aircraft and enabling the continuation of the mission to load the aircraft.
“Our African partners took the techniques we exchanged with them to heart,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Griffith, a U.S. Air Forces Africa anti-terrorism officer. “They far exceeded my expectations today by conducting textbook-perfect challenge and search procedures.”
Once partnered nations’ security forces confirmed that the flightline was secure, the load team began using international marshaling — honed during APF 12-2 – to move pallets, passengers and a vehicle onto the aircraft.
“We all use the same common language now,” said MSgt. Mark Larmony, of the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron. “Using these international hand-signals to load aircraft is a faster and safer way for these neighboring nations to work together.”
Load members from partnering nations were not only happy to use their new skills, but said they look forward to improving upon these skills for important partnering missions now and in the future.
“The techniques we have exchanged in this partnership are very valuable to the standard we operate and transport aircraft in the Ghanaian air force,” said Cpl. Ken Mohammed, a Ghanaian air force flight engineer. “We appreciate what we have learned from one another so far and hope to learn more. It is especially valuable to us now because the Ghanaian air force has an official unit working with the United Nations in the Ivory Coast and our mission there is to provide transport of troops and load. (APF 12-2) will go a long way to help me share my experience and use what I have achieved here to deliver my job.”
Cpl. Amodu Usman agreed, saying he was ready to take the skills he’s learned back to his fellow Nigerian air force air policemen and use them in the field.
“The new vehicle searching techniques I learned can be used to defend against the Boko Haram – a terrorist group in Nigeria,” Usman said.
Partner nation airmen also said the techniques and skills shared here go beyond the boundaries of the flightline.
For example, Sgt. Christopher Chukuweumeka Udeh, a Nigerian air force aircraft technician, said that skills he attained in this military-to-military event will help him not only conduct regional search and rescue missions with his partner nations but will also aid his communication with French-speaking partners because they now know all the same signals and procedures.
Tying in with the communication skills learned, the airmen here said they have also gained another powerful tool in regional stability: camaraderie. As Lance Cpl. Lydia Opoku, with the Ghanaian air force, said, the partnership building helped develop friendships between the six different nations, and she hopes this is the first of many times they get to work together.