Stuttgart Flag Football Team Takes Season and Tournament Championship

November 3, 2011

Commander Matt Anderson of U.S. Africa Command wrote:

This week AFRICOM HQ won the Unit Level Regular Season and Tournament Flag Football Championship for the U.S. Army Garrison in Stuttgart, Germany.

The team finished the regular season with a 4-1 record, then rolled through the double-elimination tournament with a 4-1 record claiming both the regular season and tournament trophies for AFRICOM.

The season’s performance was highlighted by a tremendous team defense which allowed less than 7 points per game.  Compound the defense with an offense that averaged 18 points a game, and the outcome was often decisive, with six of the 10 games ending with a “mercy rule” designation.  Execution was the key to success, as AFRICOM fielded an “experienced” team, with the average age over 36 years old and five starters in their 40’s. 

This is not meant to say that the success of the team was easy. With temporary duty, travel, leave, and injuries there were lots of holes that needed filling before each game, even in the championship game. However, it was a testament to the entire AFRICOM Command that so many civilians, contractors, and active duty personnel found a way to modify, improvise, adapt and overcome these difficulties and still win decisively. 

The defense was anchored by two players. Sergeant First Class “I got your flags right here” Nakia Maxon, was the league’s most prolific pass rusher, averaging more than three sacks per game, while Tony “That’s another INT” Thompson flew around the field making interceptions all season long. 

On offense, Rob Cassube was “Kellen Moore-esque” with his accuracy and overcame a lingering shoulder injury to pick apart opposing defenses and lead the league in total points scored. Rob “I’m still open deep” Smith and Lieutenant Corbin “Get the Man a Red Cape” Dryden, rounded out the team’s top three scorers by finding ways to get open and make the tough catches all season long. 

In the end, the flag football team offered a great opportunity for civilians, contractors, and military personnel to come together, work together, and achieve week after week, while overcoming all sorts of challenges. While there was certainly a tremendous amount of individual talent on the field, it was the teamwork that led to the Championship for AFRICOM.

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West African Rhythms

March 30, 2011

Deborah Robin Croft, U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs Office

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 Mbalax (or Mbalakh), is the national dance music of Senegal and Gambia, and you can hear it swirling in the air wherever you go in these West African countries.  During a whirlwind three-country visit to Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia, we had a chance to hear some of this music that was traditionally only sung by the Griots–combination mistrels-folksingers-oral historians–who played their special stringed instruments and sing in their native language, Wolof, to the accompaniment of the riti, balafon, tama and sabar drums. While in Senegal, I had the opportunity to visit a restaurant/art gallery where an excellent Griot musician interwove each of the names of our small entourage,  into an ancient serenade while we ate fresh Senegalese seafood.  

 Later, we went to the local Mali Market in Dakar, where we saw vendors plying all kinds of handmade wood carvings, colorful traditional fabrics, and beaded jewelry.  Of course, haggling is de’riguer for those of us who want to fit into the ways of the Senegalese people.  Everyone bargains in the marketplace.

After Senegal, we flew to Guinea-Bissau and heard Portuguese spoken as the main language.  Of course, the Portuguese also have a talent with cuisine so some of us had the Portuguese Steak with an egg on top. One of the secrets to Guinea-Bissau’s wonderful flavors is their fresh, local produce. One of their crop staples and main exports to India is the cashew nut.

After taking off and flying from Guinea-Bissau,  we went to see the Gambia. In the Gambia, we went to a local hospital in Banjul where the U.S. non-profit organization, Mercy Ships at http://www.mercyships.org.au/international-offices.php has been working with their all volunteer medical staff, to repair the cleft palates and cleft lips of mostly children. The doctors perform about two surgeries per day, not only putting a smile on these young patients’ faces, but changing their lives for the better.

After visiting the hospital, we had lunch at the residence of the US Ambassador for The Gambia, Pamela White. I wish I could say we had a dip in the Oceanside pool, but we had to fly back to Senegal instead.

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Lagos Nigeria Travel Blog

February 7, 2011

Deborah Robin Croft wrote

 

Deborah Robin Croft, a member of U.S. Africa Command’s Public Affairs Office, is on temporary assignment in Abuja, Nigeria working at the U.S. Embassy.

 

Recently, during my TDY at the US Embassy in Nigeria, I had the chance to go to Lagos for a few days. Abuja is a planned city and was declared to be the capital of Nigeria in 1991. The streets are wide and there are median strips between the lanes with planters and trees and grass. The buildings are well built with architectural flourishes and there is quite a lot of green space around these buildings. There is even a natural landmark, Aso Rock, on the north western border of the city and Abuja is surrounded by rolling hills and has creeks and streams running through its center.

Not so in Lagos. Although Lagos is on the coast and there are coastal vistas as far as the eye can see on the southern end of the city, Lagos is a huge, sprawling urbanization with smoke and smog filled air, limiting visibility even on a sunny day. Another major problem for the almost 8 million inhabitants is the unrelenting traffic that clogs all of the roadways of the city from 7 AM until well after 7 PM daily.

As an American diplomat, my mobility was restricted to Victoria Island and I was allowed on Lagos mainland only to go to and from the airport. During my short stay however, I was able to convince the embassy drivers to take me to several areas where I could stick my head out of the window and shoot a few pictures from an overpass. We were able to go to one of the neighborhood markets as well but only for a very brief time. What I saw was both vibrant and inspiring and in some cases, deeply sobering. Here are some pictures of Lagos from my recent trip.

See also: Volunteering in Abuja, Nigeria Over the Holidays

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To Honor Martin Luther King Jr.

January 14, 2011

 

 

Martin Luther King Jr-inspired boubou

David Brown, senior advisor, U.S. Africa Command Strategy, Plans and Programs wrote:

I am proud of Martin Luther King not only as a great American, but as one of the greatest men of the 20th century.   To honor him, for the last eight years I have worn a “boubou” with his image on it on January 15, his birthday.  A boubou is African in origin, and is worn by men, usually with pants on the bottom and a shirt on top with long, flowing cloth.  My special boubou was a gift given to me in 2002, when I served as the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou, Benin.  (The delightful country of Benin is located in West Africa, west of Nigeria.)   At the time, our Ambassador, Pamela Bridgewater, myself, and other members of the Embassy’s country team were invited by a vizir, a local tribal royalty, to attend the annual festival that he had organized to honor Martin Luther King.   This Beninese tribal leader, whose village was in central-eastern Benin, was very fond of the United States and had such a deep admiration for Martin Luther King that he had organized a festival of song, music, dance, and art to honor Dr. King.  The vizir also had specially made, at great expense, African wax print boubous with Dr. King’s image and presented one to me as a gift – the personal treasure that I wear today at Africom, the U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany — where I have served as since July 2010 as an embedded representative of the U.S. Department of State. 

I am now in my 50s and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina in the 1960s – a period of time when the United States, and its south in particular, had not yet fully shed the horrible vestiges of discrimination against African-Americans.  I remember to this day my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Lockamy, an African-American, who explained to me that only a handful of years earlier, there were still segregated water fountains (and toilets) in North Carolina with signs like “Whites Only” on them.   With the innocence of a child, I was profoundly shocked that my country treated its own citizens in this way, and could not understand why.  At the time Raleigh was still a relatively poor town, and going with my mother to drop off Francis, an African-American woman, at her home, an unpainted wood structure in the woods outside of Raleigh – a home that could have been built in the 19th century.  When I was in 6th grade, I was among the first year of students bused from the comfortable, upper-middle class homes of north Raleigh, to the poor ghetto of south Raleigh.  I’ll never forget how awful the school facilities were at Crosby-Garfield Elementary compared to my old elementary school – E.C. Brooks — and also noted how quickly money was spent to fix up this south Raleigh school.   Later, in high school, I learned about the 1954 Supreme Court decision, “Brown versus Topeka Board of Education,” a landmark decision which threw out “separate but equal” as an ‘acceptable’ way for our country to segregate whites and African-Americans in schools.  As I knew from my elementary school experience, “separate” in America at the time was never equal, and it was only after little white children started to attend Crosby-Garfield that it was made to look as nice as E.C. Brooks.

Fortunately, the United States is a great nation, and during the half-century plus of my lifetime, we have made tremendous strides in terms of equality for all of our citizens.  This, in great, great part due to the life and ultimate sacrifice made by Dr. Martin Luther King.   Our President, Barack Obama, is a son both of Africa through his father, and a son of other immigrant stock to the United States through his mother.   I am proud of our President, just as I am a deep admirer of Dr. King – the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.   I intend to continue to wear my Martin Luther King boubou with pride every year around his birthday for many years to come.    

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Thoughts of Uganda 1-5 December 2010

January 3, 2011

Chaplain, Lt. Col. David Terrinoni wrote

What a mission! I went on my first visit to one of our Civil Affairs (CA) team missions in Moroto, Uganda early December. I admit, I wasnt sure what to expect, but the team, under the leadership of Staff Sgt. Ken Bryant, has fulfilled every aspect of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africas 3-D Defense, Development and Diplomacy approach.

Under these three pillars, we encountered key leader engagements. Driving to the Karamoja District, we met a new captain who took over the local Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) company. The captain and his men were polite but the conversation was reserved until he discovered that the CA team was going to visit Friar Hillard of the San Paolo Church. Hillard is well respected by the people of the region as evident by the sudden change in the UPDFs demeanor. Our conversation went from polite and reserved to fun and pleasant and a new military-to-military friendship was created.

After making new connections with the UPDF, we went to visit Hillard, since he was a key religious leader in the region. HIllards mission has grown tremendously in the last three years. They have built a church, classrooms and enough housing to take care of 200 children. As Hillard stated, the children are the future hope for peace and stability in the region and his mission is teaching the children a new way to think and act.

Afterward, we went to the Mourita region to look at a completed water project. The United States helped fund the project with the Ugandan government. The people of Uganda performed the work and now there is a reservoir to catch water during the rainy season that cattle can drink during the dry season. A dozen people used this important regional improvement as we watched and the local residents can now enjoy the results of joint cooperative efforts between a government and its people.
I was excited to join the mission of the CJTF HOA and now I am a firm believer in the 3-D approach and our part in the mission to help Africans bring stability, security and peace to their part of the world.

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Enhancing capacity in Burundi

December 29, 2010

1st Lt. Corey Lies wrote

 Our team arrived at the Bujumbura International Airport in Burundi along with two other teams. There we met up with the State Department manager for Burundi who linked us up with our drivers and armed guards and headed to our hotel.

The hotel is a four-star resort setting with a large pool and amenities to include massages and outdoor dining.  The hotel menu is tough to beat, offering everything from pizza to goat, and is some of the better food I have experienced since arriving on the continent.  After checking in, we headed into the city to exchange currency and pick up some lunch.

Among popular things to do outside of work were boat rides on the lake, art shopping and a trip to the zoo, all of which had to be done in the next day and a half, as we were set to fly out before the next weekend.

The first day of our exercise it rained enough to soften the unpaved roads. We convoyed through a newly made dirt road leaving some huge ruts. Some of the team members were disappointed we had taken that route and ruined the road. However, it was graded and back to normal within a few days.

The training site is located on a hilltop with an awesome view of the valley. The classrooms are very basic, large rooms in a building with a tin roof.  An old Belgian structure is located on site that Belgian royalty apparently utilized during their rule to observe marksmanship skills.

Things got off to a very slow start on the first day of training as the classes were taught in French, and all published documents, including the Brigade Operations Order, were in French.   This made it very difficult for our team to follow what was going on.  Translation was very difficult when our English/French speaking team members were not present, as very few Burundian soldiers spoke English.

We plugged along and were gradually utilized as mentors more heavily by our staff counterparts as trust and mutual respect was built.  By the end of the week the soldiers had a better understanding of the big picture and were handling different scenarios in a more timely manner.  They performed well on their Battalion Operations Order brief and received praise from the staff and mentors for their improvement.

In the end, I felt I was able to share some great knowledge with my staff counterpart to help him prepare for future deployments.

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Overcoming language barriers

December 15, 2010

Specialist Charles Nasternak, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry, wrote from Arta, Djibouti:

 

When I first learned that I would be mentoring with our partner nation for a combat life saving course I was a bit nervous due to the fact I had never taught  this class and I would be working with a large group who did not speak English. I quickly learned that a language barrier is only as much of a hindrance as you make it. The barrier was easily overcome with training aids and hand gestures.  

As we entered the classroom, I noticed the beautiful scenery right out the back door. The facility where we conducted the class was located on a gorgeous mountain side, there were rolling hills that led to the beach and the weather was much cooler than back on Camp Lemonnier.

On the first day, about an hour into class, I could not help but notice the ruckus going on outside. There were dogs barking and some soldiers quickly moving about, and that’s when I saw the baboons. This was nothing new to them, but I had never dreamt I would see baboons invading a camp.

By the second day we had already started to get past the language barrier. I found a soldier in my group who spoke some English. This soldier helped me communicate with the rest of my small group. He also taught me some Somali, and I also worked with him on his English. By day five, our graduation day, I had made new friends and a couple of them had even invited me to their homes to meet their family. I felt very honored that someone would ask me to come to meet their family, especially given how important family is to the Muslim faith.

I am very satisfied with how well everyone got along and accomplished the mission. This was a better experience then I thought it was going to be and it let me to see why the work we are doing with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is so important.  This was a good developmental encounter for me to learn new mentoring techniques that will further my knowledge in my career field. I look forward for my next mission and also to helping our partner nations build their medical skills.


Colorful, Vibrant Nigeria

December 10, 2010

Deborah Robin Croft wrote

As we were flying over Nigeria, I couldn’t believe the diversity of the landscape below me. First, flying over the Northern part of the country, the desert below stretched endlessly for hours during the flight, with vast tan and ochre expanses sprinkled with ant-sized communities of human habitation. Slowly, the terrain became hillier and greener. Finally, muddy, rain-swollen rivers and pockets of water that must be lakes appeared. But the country is enormous and the flight seemed never-ending. When we finally stepped out of the plane, we were greeted by torrential rains because, at the end of October, it was still the tail-end of the rainy season.

It’s wonderful how green the planned capitol city of Abuja, Nigeria is during the rainy season.

Nigeria has many different tribes with their own languages. Some examples are the Yoruba in the northern part of the country and the Ibo in the South. One Saturday, our team at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja took a field trip to the Nike (pronounced Nee-Kay) Art Center where we were treated to a performance of traditional dances.
Nike is a famous artist in Nigeria. She is known for her hand-dyed cloth creations. So, our group of 20 had a class in tie-dye using dyes made from indigo, ground bark and vegetables. Nike’s artisans also showed us how to do wax paintings on the cloth using bird feathers as paint brushes.

In the month of November, right before Thanksgiving, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence P. McCulley, traveled to several northern Nigerian towns to meet with local officials and leaders and to visit some USAID-Nigeria partnership projects. The experience was extremely rewarding and some of these projects are producing excellent results in fields as important and diverse as human health, international trade, and education. The best thing about Nigeria for me however, is the warm and vibrant culture and people.

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The Gift of Hope

November 22, 2010

 Alejandro Holguin is the command’s program manager for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). CFC is a federally sanctioned fundraising campaign allowing federal employees and contractors to donate money to a list of approved charities through payroll deductions and direct donations. For more about CFC, read CFC Begins Overseas. 

Every year we see this campaign running, but for some people the impact of it is not really tangible. I want to share my personal experience with all of you and hopefully illustrate how we can actually make a difference in someone’s life, which indirectly will translate into making a difference in your life.

In December of 2000, my niece was diagnosed with Leukemia; it was the most devastating news for our family. Immediately we all started to look for treatment options, support groups, other families in similar situations, etc. We were able to find several support organizations, to include St Jude Children’s hospital that specialized in treating the type of Leukemia my niece was suffering. We all became members of the National Marrow Donor Program, contacted numerous research centers, and visited every webpage about the disease in an effort to find help.

Unfortunately, in July 2001 after numerous treatments and efforts to save her, my niece passed away.  She left us, but we were able to find support in all of these organizations that work not only in providing support to the patients and family but also in researching cure and treatments.

Although this may sound like a sad end to a story, we had chosen to make it our happy beginning. My niece (Isabella) is gone, but what she and our family experienced is re-lived every day by thousands of families across the globe, not only suffering Leukemia, but any type of disease or condition. These organizations play a crucial role in supporting and helping them, and because of their existence there are thousands of lives saved every year and in our case we were still able to find hope, comfort, and the realization of the importance of supporting others in similar situations.

I am not writing this to get you to donate to any specific charity; I am doing it so you can see how any of us could be put in a situation where we will be the ones in need of support from any of these organizations. We have the tendency of thinking, “We have insurance and enough money saved in the bank to cover us for anything that may happen.” Trust me, most of the time it is not enough, and it is not about money but about finding support, answers and most importantly HOPE. That is what you give when you participate in the CFC — not just money but hope for our community and fellow human beings!!!!!

Unfortunately for my family it took an event of this magnitude to realize this — that our support is what will help us or others and that we can all together make a difference in our lives or someone else’s life. Please do not wait for something like this to happen to you in order to realize this…Start now.

With 4 weeks before the CFC is officially over, we can still make a difference, Go online or contact your CFC rep for your pledge cards to donate.

Contractors, you can also participate in our campaign!!!!

Contact your unit representative or go online to www.cfcoverseas.org to donate or find out more.


Scraping the Ground to Touching the Heavens: One Man’s Mission in Africa

November 19, 2010

Imagine biking from the bottom to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak to be exact (topping in at 4,895meters). The sun beating on your back, the labored breathing caused by the constant ascent, not to mention the fear of dehydration setting in.

What- not enough? Ok, how about from the lowest point in Africa, Lake Assal (155m below sea level) to Uhuru Peak? This by the way covers about 3,000km thru 6 countries in Africa.

Oh did I mention this is to raise funds for a good cause?

I grew up with Kyle Henning in the Southtowns of Buffalo, New York. Since then he has forged himself a path of community service and selfless dedication. He started out with Americorps, helping out the victims of Hurricane Katrina and assisting in clean-up. Deciding that was not enough, Kyle joined the Peace Corps, and ended up in Bahir Dair, Ethiopia HIV/AIDS Services Network and teaching Life Skills classes to young adults at the New Day Children’s Centre (http://ndccethiopia.org.uk).

If that was not enough, now he is taking part in a Low2High (http://low2highafrica.blogspot.com/) bike trek from the lowest to the highest point in Africa. 

He is not doing this because he has to, he is doing this because he chooses to and he believes in what he has been teaching the last two years. Kyle Henning is doing some of the very same things AFRICOM does: promoting peace and camaraderie thru goodwill and aid on the African continent.

 

I never thought Kyle and I would be striving towards the same goal. We have such different life paths and aspirations, he going one way and I going another. Funny how now almost 11 years later by chance our lives converge yet again and we are side by side in our mission. 

 

Take a look at his blog, read about the Centre he worked in for two years, and if you wish, donate via the link provided below.

 

Kyle’s Blog can be found here: http://low2highafrica.blogspot.com.

 

Information about the New Day Children’s Centre can be found here:  http://ndccethiopia.org.uk.

 

You can donate to Kyle’s Cause here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1001177

 

 

– Melissa Augustine

  USAFRICOM