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U.S. Air Force Gen. James Hecker, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, visited Senegal to participate in the 2022 Africa Air Forces Forum, Oct. 26-27, in Dakar, Senegal.
The Senegalese air force-hosted Africa Air Force Forum is a launching point to build connections and promote dialogue between partners to bridge capability gaps, promote integration, and assure peace throughout the continent.
“The most important thing we can do to guarantee future success is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, build trust in one another, and face challenges together,” Hecker said. “We continue to lean into forums like this and others such as the African Partner Flights and the Association of African Air Forces events. Each occasion should remind us that we are in the fight together."
The conference marks Hecker’s first visit to the African continent as the USAFE-AFAFRICA commander. During the conference, Hecker spoke on the growing presence of international air forces in Africa and their ability to support partners beyond counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts.
“We have a long history of working side by side to fight terrorism and violent extremist organizations across the continent … and that fight is not done,” he said. “As our air forces have responded to new and emerging challenges, our partnerships have also evolved and grown stronger to adapt to the dynamic environment. These partnerships will be the foundation of our future success.”
He continued by stating, to be a successful air force, we need one another.
“To be effective, we all need equipment, training resources, and technology … but, most importantly, we need each other,” Hecker said. “This doesn’t just hold true in Africa … we’re seeing this need arise across Europe as well. No matter where we are in the world, today’s challenges demand a united, multinational coalition working in lockstep to counter malign influence and actors.”
The forum kicked off with welcome remarks by Brig. Gen. Papa Souleymane Sarr, Senegal air chief of staff. Also included was an open panel discussion on Leadership and Cooperation in Action with France, Brazil and China, a discussion on The Air Force Modernization Imperative with Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana and several other key discussions involving the theme of the conference, “Aviation in Low Intensity Conflicts.”
According to U.S. Air Force Col. Beth Lane, AAAF secretary general, the forum afforded the participants an opportunity to come together and learn from each other.
“The Africa Air Force Forum in Dakar was a Senegalese-led event that brought together air forces from all over Africa and the world, along with aviation industry partners,” Lane said. “We partook as equal participants and active listeners, interested in continuing our partnerships on the continent. Our presence showed we care about what our partners care about … countering malign actors to enable security and prosperity. We all understand the need to work together toward this common goal.”
The 2022 Africa Air Force Forum was the first iteration of the event. In early 2023, U.S. Air Forces Africa will co-host the 12th annual African Air Chiefs Symposium with the Senegalese air force in Senegal themed “African Air Forces in the Fight Against Transnational Threats.”