Brig. Gen. Ronald A. Cupples is the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa deputy commanding general from the National Guard component. Cupples joined SETAF-AF on June 1, 2021. He recently represented the command in Kenya at engagements with African partners, and will continue to work to leverage the National Guard State Partnership Program, utilizing this program to develop partnerships throughout Africa.
As he prepares for additional events scheduled to take place on the African continent in coming months, Cupples agreed to participate in a question and answer session to discuss his role as the SETAF-AF deputy commanding general.
Q1. What are your responsibilities as the Deputy Commanding General for SETAF-AF?
My responsibilities as the DCG will be to fully support the Commanding General’s vision and efforts, where he deem appropriate, across all areas of responsibility to accomplish the SETAF-AF mission in support of AFRICOM’s Campaign Plan and if required, as a Joint Task Force for contingency operations.
Q2. How do you hope to further relationships with our African Partners?
The CG wants to maintain and strengthen relations in our area of operation. I will support this effort with planned visits and engagements with our African partners. We have several exercises planned in Africa which create great opportunities to work together and build upon our relationships. Additionally, I hope to leverage our National Guard State Partnership Programs as they have developed long standing relationships and offer a means of frequent communication with a number of our African partners.
Q3. How will your National Guard background and experience assist you in this position?
The CG views the National Guard as a huge force multiplier. As with each component, there are nuances and unique processes associated with the National Guard. My knowledge of how the National Guard works and familiarity with the strengths of the 54 states and territories is where I will contribute in this role. Under the direction of the CG, I will facilitate the participation and maximize the assistance of the National Guard. I understand the value in our approach and necessary involvement of all three Components working as one Army to meet our objectives. In this capacity, I will work to ensure we synchronize our efforts.
Q4. What is your first impression working with SETAF-AF and our African partners?
I am honored and humbled to be part of this unit and its mission in support of AFRICOM’s campaign plan. After meeting with all of the staff directorates here at SETAF-AF, I’m really impressed with their professionalism and commitment. Quite honestly, I was surprised to learn how many National Guard and Army Reserve personnel were embedded in the staff. It really represents the “whole Army” concept.
I see a reciprocal commitment from our African partners, as well. We stand to learn a great deal from one another. The relationships we forge are mutually beneficial and will continue to enhance the security and stability in the region.
Q5. What do you think are the most important values/attributes for Soldiers to have?
For Soldiers, the most important value is respect, and the most important attribute is open-mindedness. Soldiers need to demonstrate respect toward others at all times. It’s a simple concept but, if we demonstrate respect for one another, we wouldn’t have issues of sexual assault or sexual harassment within the ranks.
Being open-minded allows the Soldier to maintain respect and appreciation for the various personal and cultural differences that exist within our ranks. Being accepting of our differences will lead to greater inclusion, enhanced diversity, and a better overall organization.
Q6. What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership is providing the right amount of guidance, support, and mentorship to members of an organization so it can operate effectively. A critical aspect of this is creating an environment where people feel engaged, empowered, and can develop professionally without fear of making mistakes.
Q7. How has your Army career helped you grow as a person?
Over the years I’ve tried hard to not let my career in the Army define who I am. I’ve always maintained a healthy life outside of the military with my family, friends, sports, and various hobbies. However, the Army is a profession that I’ve been associated with my entire adult life so naturally it has influenced who I am today.
The Army has provided me with so many great opportunities, experiences, and an education that goes far beyond academics. I’m extremely grateful to have met so many intelligent, talented, and dedicated people in the profession of arms. I’ve had some great mentors along the way, both enlisted and officers, and I continue to learn from our outstanding leaders within the Army.
Q8. What advice to you have for the Soldiers at SETAF-AF?
Take advantage of all the opportunities that the Army has to offer; develop a short and long range plan to add to your resume. Utilize your time wisely and challenge yourself by taking college or military education courses, learning a new language, or by taking up a new sport.
Engage in your surroundings, both on and off base. See what’s out there in your community, do some sightseeing, and learn about the culture.