Courtesy story by SOCAFRICA.
Military and government leaders from the across the globe came together for Silent Warrior 23, Dec. 4 – 7, 2023 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
The multi-day conference, hosted by Special Operations Command Africa, aimed to facilitate forums for senior military leaders to discuss shared concerns and identify collaborative solutions to the strategic, operational, and tactical issues in Africa. Many leaders in attendance were also from their respective countries’ special operations forces.
The annual conference, now in its 12th year, had 55 nations in attendance – 22 African countries and 33 international partners. This year, the conference placed a heavy emphasis on violent extremist organizations (VEOs) and the unique challenges they pose across the African continent.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ron Foy, SOCAFRICA’s commander, stated during opening remarks for the conference that the best way to combat the aforementioned VEOs was through sustained partnerships.
“We recognize the strong potential Africa brings not only to the continent but to the globe as a whole,” said Foy. “A stable and prosperous Africa continues to and always will be in the world’s best interest.”
Also in attendance was the U.S. Africa Command team, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, AFRICOM commander, and U.S. Marine Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Woods, AFRICOM senior enlisted leader. Langley provided opening remarks for the conference.
“Sessions such as Silent Warrior 23, give me the opportunity to listen,” said Langley. “Listen to your viewpoints. Listen to some of the challenges but moreover, listen to the opportunities across the continent of Africa.”
“Whether it be the enduring fight against al-Shabaab or against violent extremist organizations across the Sahel,” said Langley. “I am listening to you and your ideas collectively.”
Senior officials from SOCAFRICA’s African partner nations were some of the guest speakers for the event. On theme with the conference, Brig. Gen. John Njeru, Kenya Defence Force, organized an in-depth discussion on al-Shabaab, a VEO that has posed a significant security threat in Njeru’s home country of Kenya and other nations throughout east Africa.
Njeru spoke about the increasing capabilities of al-Shabaab, such as the spread of disinformation, large scale recruitment and the increasing use of drones and how those challenges can be addressed through partnerships and collective efforts.
The conference also afforded leadership the opportunity to have small-group discussions on various topics. One breakout session focused on enlisted development within not only U.S. forces, but SOCAFRICA’s international and African partners as well.
Command Sgt. Maj. Garrick Banfield, the senior enlisted leader for SOCAFRICA, stressed the importance of enlisted service members and the benefits they bring to multilateral planning and operations.
“Enlisted leaders provide a unique perspective and a vantage point,” said Banfield. “These vantage points illuminate a situation which can then enable enlisted leaders to provide advice and counsel to their officers.”
Multiple agencies came together to ensure the success of the conference. SOCAFRICA staff took on a heavy load with the logistics and planning efforts of the conference. Airmen from the Language Enabled Airman Program ensured the practices shared were translated to French, Arabic and Portuguese-speaking countries.
“In conferences like Silent Warrior, we facilitate clear and accurate communication across languages and cultures,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Scott Guthrie, LEAP interpreter and 52nd Health Care Operations Squadron physician. “This not only enhances mutual understanding and cooperation but also respects and acknowledges the cultural diversity of the participants – leading to more effective international collaborations.”
Foy thanked those in attendance for battling the elements to participate in the discussions, briefs, and breakout sessions. He also stressed the importance of SOCAFRICA’s enduring partnerships with their African partners.
“Partnerships serve as the backbone for our resolve to defeat violent extremism”, said Foy. “And I can say without reservation no VEO can match our collective strength. None. We’re much stronger together.”
This article by SOCAFRICA was first published by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service on December 7, 2023. DVIDS content is in the public domain. Photo: Attendees at Silent Warrior 23 conference hosted by SOCAFRICA. (photo by Senior Airman Tyler McQuiston, Dec 5, 2023)