IN THE NEWS
Soldiers from 1st Bn, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team conducted dismounted tactical movements in the the small rural town of Alicedale during Exercise Shared Accord 2013. NCOs of U.S. Army Africa's G-6 directorate ensure communication support during exercises and other missions on the African continent. Shared Accord is a biennial training exercise which promotes regional relationships, increases capacity, trains U.S. and South African forces, and furthers cross-training and interoperability. (U.S. Army Africa photos by Staff Sgt. Tamika Dillard)
By Meghan Portillo, NCO Journal
VICENZA, Italy – The NCOs of U.S. Army Africa’s G-6 directorate adapt to many challenges as they work alongside African partner nations to provide communication support for operations and exercises in areas with few resources.
As USARAF’s only signal asset, the G-6 assumes the regular duties of ensuring USARAF headquarters in Vicenza, Italy, has Internet and phone service and of troubleshooting printers, computers and mobile devices. The approximately 50 personnel are spread thin, however, as they also provide communication support during exercises and other missions on the African continent.
“Fifty-one people trying to support all of the communication assets on the African continent can be very challenging at times,” said Sgt. Maj. Anthony Harris Sr., USARAF’s G-6 sergeant major. “There are a lot of exercises and not enough people. I do not have regionally aligned forces to support USARAF fully. So that’s why you see [individuals and teams of two] going to different exercises, different operations. Depending on what is going on on the continent, somebody is going to say, ‘Hey, I need radio.’ ‘Hey, I need Internet.’ ”
More than 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa’s 54 nations, and each country regulates its telecommunication differently. This leads to unique challenges when USARAF brings nations together for regional exercises.
“I rely on my NCOs so heavily,” Harris said. “They are smart enough to be able to pick up and adapt. They are coming here and learning on the fly, which is a good thing. They are learning two and three different military occupational specialties. I’m training (25V) combat camera guys to be 25B IT specialists. So if they go down to the continent, they can take pictures, and they can also work on your network.
“These guys are worn out. I know that. I depend on them to go [to Africa] because they are intelligent and they can do the job. When they get down there, they are professional. I trust them.”
Bringing nations together
Each year, USARAF coordinates an exercise in each of the four regions of Africa as part of the “Accord” series. The exercises are intended to enhance African forces’ abilities to conduct operations on their own, increasing stability and security in each region.