Into the Africa Land Forces Summit

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This transcript is from a CSIS podcast published on May 16, 2024. Listen to the podcast here.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Welcome to Into Africa. My name is Mvemba Phezo Dizolele. I'm a senior fellow and the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This is a podcast where we talk everything Africa, politics, economics, security, and culture. Welcome.

The non-commissioned-officer corps is the backbone of any army or any military in the world. They are the ones who hold the organization together. They are the corporals, the sergeant, the staff-sergeant, the master-sergeant and so on. As such, leadership is important, because the more and the better they do their job, the better the institution will be. In Africa, this is challenging because African militaries have had different histories based on the colonial experiences and also the political leaderships of these countries over the last 60 years.

Today, I am at the African Land Forces Summit in Livingstone, Zambia, where the United States military, in partnership with African militaries, particularly today are being hosted by the Zambian Armed Forces, for great discussions on regional problems and how to handle them with regional solutions and partnerships. I'm joined by Reese Teakell, who is the Command Sergeant Major of the Southern European Task Force, Africa, Vicenza, in Italy and by Command Sergeant Major Jeremiah E. Inman of the US Army, Europe and Africa. And where are you based?

Jeremiah E. Inman: I am based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: In Wiesbaden, Germany-

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yes, sir.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Gentlemen, welcome to Into Africa.

Reese W. Teakell: Thank you, sir. Happy to be here.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: You are in, uh, Zambia today with me. What is the objective of the summit? What are you trying to do as senior-NCO leaders, with your partners in Africa?

Reese W. Teakell: The objective for this week is to pull together the senior-non-commissioned officers from a whole host of army. In this summit, we've got representation from 25 different countries, and the theme for this week has been excellence in competition, right? I've certainly experienced over my career, and we're finding through our engagement, is the idea of how do you realize we're training on the right skills or whether the soldiers are prepared or we're working, you know, focused on the right task, and by which, which mechanisms would you use to see that. We often use that in the US Army as competition, so there... We've got a number of those. Um, the US Army Infantry Week was last week, where we had US Army representation for best ranger, best mortar, best sapper, which is going on this week, sniper sapper, and then combatives.

It's rich in our culture, and so this week's theme is to describe those and why those are beneficial and where senior leaders find themselves using that as a tool for resourcing, seeing where leader development is working well, and perhaps where leader development may be needed in order to increase skill proficiency, leader development, and readiness of their formations.

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yeah, the great thing about ALFS... This is my fifth ALFS, right? And the first time we hosted it was in 2018. So every year, we continue to build upon topics discussed about even just the officers, but also the NCOs. When I did the initial conference in 2018, we had, I think, nine African partners. And I think we've got, what, 24?

Reese W. Teakell: Yup. 25 total.

Jeremiah E. Inman: ... enlisted, attending this, this conference. And our initial discussion the very basic discussions. This is what we need a sergeant team leader to do. This is what we need a staff sergeant, a squad leader, or section leader to do. This is what we need a platoon sergeant to do, first sergeant, and sergeant major. And as Reese has taken this on, he's continued to build upon those discussions and educations.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: 25 armies, that's what you... what we're talking about-

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yup.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: ... 25 countries, 25 armies, plus the United States. And then we see some other partners of the United States, the European countries that are also represented here. How do these countries or these militaries differ in their development of the leadership and especially excellence in leadership from the doctrine that you use in the United States?

Jeremiah E. Inman: I think as you discussed it, you know, a lot of countries occupied the African countries before us. Each country has a little bit of a different need of what they need their non-commissioned officer to do. We do have 10 Africans attending our Sergeant Majors Academy in, uh, El Paso, Texas with us currently, and next year I think we have 13. And each country takes that back, and I think they continue to build on how they do enlisted education and development.

Reese W. Teakell: I think a really great example of that working very positively is the Sergeants Major Academy in Malawi. That was started out of a program through AMEDD, where through some advising the Ma-, uh, Malawi Armed Forces, set up a Sergeant Majors Academy. And I think last year was their 10th class that they executed. It's so successful that they train 10 sergeant majors from eight different countries. And so I think that's a great example of a growing opportunity and representation of how that's working in some areas. And in some areas, we're more nascent in development of army institutions, but we're seeing good examples, such as in Malawi and Liberia. There's a number of those examples that we're seeing growing improvement in focused leader development for the non-commissioned officer.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: In Malawi Academy, is that the only type that we have in, on the continent here?

Reese W. Teakell: Yeah, structured like it is in Malawi, very representative of what you would see at the US Army Sergeant Majors Academy. Certainly differ, in tune to those things that the Malawi Armed Forces needs. It's the best example that I've gotten to see so far.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: You say it was set up with some advising. Was there US engagement in that advising?

Reese W. Teakell: Yes. Yeah, yeah, that was... Uh, like I said, it started in 2014. We sent a team down. So it was a combined team between us, SETAF, some folks out of 7th ATC, underneath Sergeant Major Inman's time in SETAF. An important note is, is in my position... He had my position two guys ago. Okay? So that continuity, especially with ATC, um, SETAF, and we had folks from our... We have a Sergeant Majors Academy. Uh, I like to call it NCOLCoE, our Center of Excellence for Non-Commissioned Officer Development. And so that's been an ongoing advisement over the last few years.

Jeremiah E. Inman: I think a key thing to mention too was the Malawian went to the US Army Sergeant Majors Academy, returned back home, and his officers were like, "Why did I send you to American for a year? What did you learn?" So the sergeant major discussed what he had learned during the academy, and the officer said, "I need one of those academies in my country." It wasn't the enlisted pushing it. The officers also saw the value of what NCOs bring to the fight, and that's why they developed that academy. And currently, there's a Malawian female in our Sergeant Majors Academy who is an instructor at the Malawian Sergeant Majors Academy. So she had to go through the course, she'll bring back that knowledge and skills, and help tune up, advance her program a little bit.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: And Malawi opened the door of the academy to other African countries?

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yes.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: And you said that 10 of them are currently undergoing the training?

Reese W. Teakell: No, no. That was in the last class. I'm not sure what they have in the current class.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Mm-hmm.

Reese W. Teakell: But in the last class they graduated, that was the case.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Let's talk a little bit about the offering into this Development of Excellence in Leadership. What kind of subject this young, non-commissioned officers cover, what do you offer in your own academies in the United States, and what do you hope to transfer, because it's about transfer, knowledge transfer, really?

Reese W. Teakell: All of it.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Okay, very good.

Jeremiah E. Inman: You know, each level has a different requirement, right? So we have different steps and phases you have to go through. You do the education piece in the schoolhouse, and you do the training while you're at your unit. And it's really teaching non-commissioned officers how to lead in the absence of orders. You know, and I guess a good example would be we went to a training exercise a few years back, and we were overall kind of controlling the exercise. There were 10 different platoons.

Everybody spoke a different language, so we attached an NCO with a radio with each of the platoons as they went through the training. On the onset of the battle, right, this fictitious battle, uh, the platoon had to go clear, like, two buildings. The partner-platoon leader was killed. So all the other soldiers stopped. One soldier that spoke English ran to the American NCO with a radio, he's like, "What do we do?" So the American sergeant who had been trained and educated on tactics, "Put support by fire over there. That squad, go take that first building," (laughs), "Once you're done with the first building, shift fire into building two, and that squad, move into the next building." The NCOs of that organization were not trained. They looked to the American who had been trained. So that's why NCOs need training and education, so in the absence of officers, in the absence of orders, they can take up and continue the fight.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: I like this, "In the absence of orders." I think we all can use the skillset, "What to do in the absence of orders." Most of our lives our live, uh, lived without, uh... in absence of orders, right? The boss is not there. Somebody is not there, I expect you to deliver. Education, you said, I took a point to this. What goes into that education bracket? Yeah, it sounds like there is the theoretical portion and the practical portion.

Reese W. Teakell: Yeah. So, that varies. At the tactical level, we've got a number of systems that we use to employ that. One of those within SETAF is the Security Force Assistance Brigade. That has very specifically designed teams that partner with armies in order to deliver technical expertise at the point of need. And so that's by design, "What do you need to improve on? What do you need to train on?" And those teams help them, uh, achieve those training goals at the tactical level.

So, Jeremiah talked about the institutional piece and the tactical piece. There's also those engagements. We, we do the... something similar through the Joint-Exercise Program. They have ones for SETAF that we just got, uh, got done executing just about a core of representation for some dif- different nations. And we executed some tactical-skills training as part of that joint exercise. And we're getting it ready to do African Mind, or a number of different nations, there will be a lot of training that's, you know, that's associated with that too.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: In terms of this training, like today here in Livingstone, in Zambia, you're engaging with 25 armies. This is just one event, right? It is gonna take a week, and then everybody goes home. So they sit down to these sessions that you offer here, discussions. Where is the follow up, and how does that happen?

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yeah, we run, what, 30 different exercises throughout the continent every year.

Reese W. Teakell: Yeah.

Jeremiah E. Inman: Uh, so there's-

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: 34?

Jeremiah E. Inman: 30, roughly 30 exercises-

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: 30 exercises.

Reese W. Teakell: Major exercises.

Jeremiah E. Inman: ... across the command.

Reese W. Teakell: Yeah. You know, some of those are not SETAF. Those are other units, and some of those are other services, you know, throughout there.

Jeremiah E. Inman: So those are those consistent touchpoints. Um, we also, like, I'm sure you're in dialogue with a lot of partners too, but I... WhatsApp, you gotta love it, right? So I still talk to a lot of my African partners on WhatsApp. I met George B. Solomon, uh, from Malawi 2017. We actually brought him to the USA, in Washington, DC, to do a education forum, a warrior's corner, to talk about the value of what Malawi provides, not just from a-

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: This is an NCO from Malawi?

Jeremiah E. Inman: Correct, correct. It was well received.

Reese W. Teakell: Yeah, I, I think WhatsApp's (laughs)... So that's a shame, but that, you know, that's certainly the case. Um, coming on just about a quarter, Sergeant Major to the Army in Kenya is Sergeant Major Joel Murage, a very talented NCO. I'm very excited, and, and we keep in touch. We're talking about Malawi Sergeant Majors Academy, when I went to visit the academy, the NCO that's in charge of it, his name is Sally Mussa, Sergeant Major Sally Mussa. As it turns out, we were classmates in the US Army Sergeant Major Academy back, you know, Class 62-

... at about 10 years ago. Those relationships come and go, but what we find is they pop up through the consistency in the things that we're doing. ALFS, or this summit, is just one component of that, that allows us to maintain routine touchpoints.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: On the personal level, obviously you're keeping in touch with them. You mentioned WhatsApp, and we live in the era of all kind of platforms that allow us to do this. In terms of institution to institution, can you expand a little bit? You said that 30 exercises, roughly? How do we follow up institutional?

Jeremiah E. Inman: There's a number of ways, right? Tactically, we do that through the Joint Exercise Program. My course does a lot of that. And then we also do it through the embassies or the Office of Security Cooperation, that allows us persistent engagement in the country.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: So the embassy, you mean the defense attachés?

Jeremiah E. Inman: The DAP, yeah.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: And also the Security Cooperation Office, yes.

Jeremiah E. Inman: That's correct. And then those that have state-partnership programs, that's a separate tactical touchpoint. But in those embassies, they've got a bilateral-affairs officer that maintains that relationship within those countries, that feeds those requirements, those needs for training, those needs for development, in ways that we can synchronize that within the planning process. And we can be deliberate, whether it's SETAF, AFRICOM, [inaudible 00:14:19], in how we... when we apply those resources. As we know, all resources are limited, and so we've got to be very deliberate and tactful.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: You mentioned State Security Program. What is that? I don't think-

Jeremiah E. Inman: State Partnership Program.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: State Partnership Program, what is it?

Jeremiah E. Inman: So, the State Partnership Program is a program by which our National Guard, our states in the US, partner with a country to build a relationship and provide opportunity for training and collaboration within those countries.

Reese W. Teakell: It's very beneficial too, 'cause as commanders and command sergeant majors, we change out every two to three years. That state partnership is consistent. So when Ebola broke out in Liberia, the CHOD from Liberia went straight to the Michigan CHOD, the commander, because they had an existing relationship, instead of trying to seek help other directions. So that's just a great, consistent touchpoint.

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yeah. I think a good example of that is, uh, is Ghana and North Dakota. Sergeant Major Isaac Yeboah is, you know, the, the task-force sergeant major. And then send Ghanaian soldiers, or, like, a team to compete in the North Dakota Best Warrior Competition every year. So that's good representation or example of that partnership and what it can, you know, and what it can do, 'cause we've got those exchange, soldiers and skills and otherwise that, that allows us to grow over time.

Reese W. Teakell: Yeah, and State Partners is global. It's just not in Africa.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Oh, so it's not just in Africa?

Reese W. Teakell: It's across the world. And there are some states that have multiple partners. It’s a really good program.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: They provide training. They provide... Beyond, anything beyond military training in this case, if it's state to the country?

Reese W. Teakell: I can't speak to that. From a military perspective, it's really military training and capability focused.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Then we have different unit, different branches in the US military. How do you coordinate these kind of engagements? So being in the room where we were today, how many NCOs were there, maybe 30? I can-

Jeremiah E. Inman: 50.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: 50? So there were 50 representing different countries. And I suppose the senior NCO come from different branches within those countries. Uh, but the two of you are from the Army?

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yes.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Both of you are for Army, from the Army. But other people in the room, are there-

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yeah.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: I saw Air Force, the US Air Force was represented as well. How do you coordinate this engagement, this type of engagement within US capability, within the- these various countries or sort of people coming from different doctrines.

Reese W. Teakell: This conference is Army focused. It's Land-Force Command, and so the primary customer is our Army folks. And the Air Force folks that we have in the room, I've got two, provide capability and training that focus on, primarily on the Air Force side of the house, is tactical development and Air Force capabilities. But they also provide leader-development opportunities that span across whatever branch that might be. And so a soldier that's in the army could attend that leader-development portion of it and get just as good training as they would in an army leader-development focused training. So there's opportunities. And so we invite them to come so that we make sure that those resources are available and they can coordinate it and get it scheduled through their OSC.

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yeah, it really doesn't matter where you get your education and training. It just matters that you get it. Myself for example, I didn't go to the US Army Sergeant Majors Academy. I went to the Air Force Senior NCO Course. It hasn't stopped me from continuing to be a non-commissioned officer, so it's just getting that training and education.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: And in a way, you're saying, "Leadership is leadership. It doesn't matter where it comes from."

Jeremiah E. Inman: Yes. That's exactly right.

Reese W. Teakell: Yes.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: What drives you as you engage with this group of armies from around Africa? What's the return for the United States?

Reese W. Teakell: Security, stability, prosperity.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: How so?

Reese W. Teakell: Good partners. We're not gonna be in the Army much longer, so we need to continue to train the folks that are gonna replace us, right, and try to leave the world and our armies in a better, stronger place.

Jeremiah E. Inman: I think one of the, the best benefits is we exch-, you know, exchange training, and, and we bring US soldiers over, and they meet their African partners, is we find out that we have a lot more in common than people might otherwise think. You know, and so that commonality, and the globe of it is only getting smaller. And so as the world gets smaller, and those mechanisms to stay connected, I think we're realizing that we're all connected. Those common values and realizing that we have a lot of common values are important for maintaining future stability and prosperity for each of our nations and the globe.

Reese W. Teakell: And fr- from a threat perspective, terrorism doesn't affect one person. It affects the freedoms that we all enjoy. So if we can collaborate, work together, and figure out better ways to defeat these organizations, I mean, it's, it's a benefit for everybody.

Jeremiah E. Inman: What I've found is, is soldier, you know, soldier... It doesn't matter where you are, soldiers are soldiers. It's great to see when they're excited when you train them and, and they're excited about demonstrating how good they are. And so that's been fundamental to my career as non-commissioned officer, is the ability to train soldiers and see that they feel confident and better about what they do. And so it's rewarding in, in that riff, you know, that aspect that not only have I gotten that opportunity to do that in the US Army-

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Mm-hmm.

Reese W. Teakell: Yeah.

Jeremiah E. Inman: ... you know, that I've had some opportunity in the last couple years to, to do that abroad. And it's pretty rewarding.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Your two organizations, US Army - Europe and Africa and Southern Europe - Task Force Africa, I think you integrated into each other, yes?

Reese W. Teakell: Yes.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: US Army - Europe and Africa is on top of SETAF.

Reese W. Teakell: Correct.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Now, your partners are not just in Africa. You also have European partners. Like today, we see many countries represented, partner countries, NATO members mostly. Those countries, those military, European military are also engaging with the Africans.

Reese W. Teakell: Yes.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: Is there any type of coordination to ensure that whatever you're offering either reinforces what they're doing or the other way around? I suppose also you have some of these type of partnerships with Europeans, and you say, "Oh, how do you see that landscape?"

Reese W. Teakell: It's a continued partnership, 'cause we all have the same goal, right? Make our partners stronger, make us stronger, and defeat those terrorist organizations.

Jeremiah E. Inman: We're not trying to control what other countries do on the continent, but everybody's their to help out.

Reese W. Teakell: I think you're highlighting in your question, one of the biggest challenges that we have is the forums by which we can come together and synchronize the things that we're doing. Like Jeremiah said, we don't control what other nations are doing. But in those places by which we have commonality and common interest, we are absolutely collaborating in order to make sure that we're providing the best resources through our African partners.

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele: On that note I would like to thank you both, Command Sergeant Major Jeremiah Inman of US Army, Europe and Africa and Command Sergeant Major Reese Teakell of Southern Europe Task Force, Africa. Thank you.

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