DAKAR, Senegal - U.S. and African partners concluded a weeklong event with eight regional air forces here on June 20, aimed at strengthening relationships between the air forces and encouraging an exchange of ideas.
African Partnership Flight is a U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa lead program that consists of the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserves and the U.S. Army. It has become a premier program for U.S. Africa Command to help foster security and stability throughout the continent.
"African Partnership Flight is meant to develop interoperability and regional cooperation between African countries," said. Maj. James Renfro, APF mission commander. "We want to develop communication between the separate countries so that if something does happen they are already familiar with each other and can assist their partners in a time of need."
Airmen from Senegal, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana and Mauritania attended classroom discussions and hands-on demonstrations that were relevant to each person's skill set. The classrooms included aeromedical evacuation, flight and ground safety, base defense, mission planning and cargo loading functions.
The discussions uncovered a diverse group of professionals and a wide variety of experiences in each respective air force.
"So far it has been a great event," said Maj. James Renfro, APF commander. "We have 150 participants from nine countries including the U.S. They are all military professionals interacting together to learn from their shared experiences."
Those different experiences are what the students value the most.
"We got to see how they approach problems," said Cpl. Jito Alhassen, medical technician from the Ghana air force. "We experienced our job from their point of view and shared our way of doing things with the other countries."
He explained that they have learned more in these five days of discussion and hands on application than he has in any other course in Ghana.
"Everybody in the air force should come to this training," Alhassen said. "We would be a very strong air force if everyone was able to experience what we did."
Networking was one of the highlights for most students who spent their breaks exchanging email addresses and Facebook contacts.
"We built friendships," Alhassen said. "It is good to bring all these people together so we can work together to be united."
Despite the different cultures and languages, the instructors bonded with the students over their shared love for the job they do in the military.
"One goal we all have is to provide great patient care," said Lt. Col. Miguel Jimenez, 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, "and we have the same passion for trying to move patients from the point of injury to a safe location."
APF provided the opportunity to the students to get the valuable hands on experience that is not so readily available for them. The hands on portion of the class allowed the students to put their classroom experience to the test.
"The students craved hands on training," Jimenez said, "and that is what we provided, which I think was invaluable to them. Ask my students if they thought their time here was valuable. I know the answer will be 'yes'."