GAO, Mali-- Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) deployed forces to Gao, Mali, from Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 30-31. The movement was the third time American forces demonstrated the ability to expeditiously deploy self-sustained operations in an austere environment and better interact with partner forces.
CJTF-HOA personnel first made the roughly 5,000 kilometers (2,900 miles) trip to Mali and performed training March 3, then again on the 19th.
The task force, stationed at the only enduring U.S. military base in Africa, regularly deploys forces across the continent to enhance crisis response capabilities and foster relations with partner nations.
“It’s extremely important that our force demonstrates its ability to reach and respond rapidly to crises anywhere on the continent,” said British Army Col. Hugh Baker, the CJTF-HOA director of strategy and plans and a senior leader of the multinational task force.
“Our presence reinforces that the U.S. is prepared to quickly respond on a moment’s notice no matter where the need arises,” Baker added.
Baker leads the long-term training plans department designed to continuously improve the task force’s capabilities.
Seeing the training first hand allows Baker to make observations aimed at improving these types of movements in the future. In addition, he conducted multiple key leader engagements during the trip.
These engagements bring high-level leadership from the U.S. military or other agencies together with important local officials and partner forces.
Mali lies in the Sahel region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea along the southern rim of the Sahara desert. It’s also a strategic partner for stabilizing the region by uniting multinational forces in the fight against violent extremist organizations.
Baker had the opportunity to meet with some of the multinational forces including a British unit that provides helicopters to move supplies and personnel across the region.
“Meeting with our UK counterparts was very valuable for everyone involved,” said Baker. “Not only were we able to reinforce our support to our partners, we also gained a better understanding of each other's operations.”
Although it’s a challenge to complete the troop movement from East to West Africa, the forces gained valuable insights and forged stronger relationships with their allies.