U.S. Army Soldiers from Task Force Bayonet, assigned to the East Africa Response Force (EARF) in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), alongside Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based out of Vicenza, Italy, traveled to Somalia as part of a security exercise to Mogadishu International Airport (MIA), Jan. 20-21.
The EARF exercise demonstrated the ability to respond across a wide range of military operations including, crisis response, protection of U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities, disaster relief, personnel recovery, humanitarian assistance, and other missions as directed by U.S. Africa Command, as well as a continued commitment to U.S. partners in Somalia.
“Though we recently repositioned U.S. forces across East Africa, the deployment of the East Africa Response Force to MIA shows our continued commitment to our partners in Somalia, how we can rapidly respond to a crisis in East Africa, and demonstrated our ability to ensure the safety and security of U.S. personnel,” said U.S. Army Col. Jennifer Mykins, CJTF-HOA director of operations.
As a combined Department of State and Department of Defense emergency deployment readiness exercise, the U.S. reassured its partners that the EARF can rapidly respond to threats posed towards U.S. interests on the ground at the MIA complex, as well as the U.S. Embassy Mogadishu.
“This training exercise provided the EARF with the opportunity to exercise movement plans and integrate with multinational partners and Department of State security at MIA,” said Mykins. “Additionally, the exercise demonstrated U.S. commitment to the overall security and stability throughout East Africa.”
The timing of this event was significant given the upcoming federal elections in Somalia, the threat from violent extremist organizations (VEOs), and the recent repositioning of U.S. forces in the region.
“Federal elections in Somalia often times present a security risk for U.S. personnel and facilities, given Somalia continues to be threatened by violent extremist organizations,” said U.S. Army Maj. Brian Hass, CJTF – HOA crisis response team lead. “It was also significant timing by showing our partner nations in East Africa that even though we have repositioned in the region, we are still committed to the overall security and stability of Somalia.”
The exercise gave the EARF a better understanding of the security situation at MIA and their ability to augment it in a time of crisis, while helping the CJTF – HOA staff.
“This [exercise] deployment allowed our CJTF-HOA staff to plan and execute an actual deployment of the EARF to Mogadishu as part of an AFRICOM and Department of State coordinated crisis response planning process,” said Hass.
The movement of the EARF and 173rd Soldiers shows the United States’ commitment to the safety and security of all of our partners in East Africa.