For the first time in its nine-year history, the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa hosted a senior enlisted conference, August 22 to 24, 2011, bringing together service members from 11 countries, spanning four continents, to enhance regional and international partnerships and build esprit de corps.
The CJTF-HOA 2011 Senior Non-Commissioned Symposium hosted representatives from Djibouti, Rwanda, Japan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Spain, Seychelles, Mauritius, Burundi, Uganda and the United States in an environment that fostered shared learning and mutual cooperation.
« We expect to learn just as much from them as they do from us, » said U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Major Scott Mykoo, CJTF-HOA senior enlisted leader. « I’m excited to learn how the enlisted forces of our partner nations relate to their respective commanders. »
Mykoo said the goal of the conference was to explain the mission of CJTF-HOA and its relationship with the various nations in attendance.
« I want this conference to be fun and relaxed, » said Mykoo. « We are all peers and brothers-in-arms. This is one team with one fight. »
In addition to a familiarization with the mission and processes of CJTF-HOA, the conference focused on the importance of a unified military presence in the Horn of Africa.
« This area is extremely important because of all the ships crossing the area, » said Djiboutian National Army 1st Sergeant Dahier Attyeh. « It is a very strategic location. »
With roughly 30,000 cargo ships and 11 percent of the world’s oil passing through the waters off the Horn of Africa every year, an increase in piracy has become a primary concern for the region’s military forces, said Mykoo.
« Piracy is expanding, » said Mykoo. « It’s a business that affects all of us, and right now, business is good. »
Piracy wasn’t the only concern addressed during the conference. The recently and widely covered problems of drought and famine were part of the discussion by senior enlisted service members, looking to positively affect change in the region.
« The people are starving, » said Djiboutian National Army 1st Sergeant Elmi Rirache. « If you give them food, and give them help, then they will help you in return. »
Throughout the conference, Mykoo forged a bridge between the regionally related problems of famine and piracy.
« When people don’t have food, they look to the job that pays the best, » he said. « Right now, unfortunately, that job is piracy. »
Mykoo said CJTF-HOA is branching out into the region with a whole of government approach, utilizing the 3-D process, which is diplomacy, development and defense.
The goal is to create a unity among partner nations before strategic decisions are made by higher leadership. This is designed to foster collaboration, coordination and cooperation. Mykoo said unity is critical because at any given time there are potential hostages within the Horn of Africa as a result of piracy.
« Working together is essential, » said Rwandan Defence Force Sergeant Major Joshua Munyandinda. « It has been very difficult prosecuting pirates under international law. »
U.S. Army Sergeant Major Samuel Metzger, U.S. Africa Command East Africa Regional Engagements senior enlisted leader, said the discussions and questions raised during this symposium will serve to strengthen ties between enlisted service members, their commanders and partners from other nations.
« They are the backbone of the enlisted force structure, » said Metzger. « This conference exposed them to non-commissioned officer roles and responsibilities. It also served to reach across multiple continents and broaden our perspectives. We can all go back to our respective commands with new contacts and new ideas, which will help us grow as leaders. »
Mykoo stressed the importance of coming together in a spirit of learning and cooperation, during regional instability.
We are in a risky business, » he said. « But, we take that responsibility willingly as senior enlisted service members. »
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs