Thank you and congratulations to Diallo Mamadou Bathia, Minister of Defense and Général de Division Mohamed Ghazouani, Chief of Defense for the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, and Colonel Mohamed Ould Hreytani, Chief of Staff of the Air Force of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania for co-hosting the 2015 African Air Chiefs Symposium. Welcome to Lt Gen Ray, Commander of the Third Air Force and Seventeenth Expeditionary Air Force Commander. To General Jean-Calvin Momha, Cameroonian Air Force Chief of Staff, who was unable to join us, thank you for your leadership and stewardship as the African Air Chiefs Symposium Secretariat since the 4th edition of the Symposium last year in Douala.
To the other Air Chiefs, General Officers, Deputies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen — It is an honor to join you today as we gather at this annual African Air Chiefs Symposium.
The presence of senior Mauritanian, American, and military leaders from 19 other nations signifies one key point: our nations are committed in deeds as in words to a partnership of cooperation to promote mutually shared goals of strengthening regional security and stability.
I thank the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania for their hospitality and professional hosting of this event. Their exemplary support throughout the planning of this major event underscores the very strong partnership between our nations to achieve common goals and the Mauritanian commitment to regional security.
The United States of America is proud of our cooperation with both the Government and the people of Mauritania – as well as every nation represented here today – to promote a future of stability, the rule of law, prosperity and dignity for all citizens.
Mauritania, just like the United States and the other nations represented today, needs a safe environment for their citizens to prosper by enjoying the freedom to fully use their talents and meet their highest potential. But of course, safety and security is a vital prerequisite. For this reason, the United States is committed to partner with Mauritania and other nations to enhance regional security. As military leaders, you are the experts on how we can best partner with you to meet your civilian governments’ goals and objectives.
Today’s complex and dynamic security challenges require creative and effective responses. Airpower can play a decisive role in this regard. Individually, these issues may appear overwhelming, but collectively we can better understand and overcome these challenges. The first essential step is exactly what you are doing here today: gathering Airmen from across the continent to meet common challenges. The combined professional experience in this room extends to many years of military excellence.
As Air Chiefs and leaders, you have earned the special responsibilities for organizing, training, and equipping air forces to defend your nations with special trust placed in you to lead and develop the men and women who serve under your commands. We commend you for developing a network of professional Airmen and airpower advocates through this symposium. Coordination air power throughout the continent to meet the needs of common defense is an immense undertaking. This shared goal can be achieved over time through constant efforts to build African partner nations.
There is a Hassaniya proverb I would like to share with you:
Guitra guitra issil elwad
A raindrop and a raindrop floods the valley.
The Wolof have a proverb that makes the same point:
Ndank, ndank moy japp golo chi njaaye,
which means, little by little you can catch the monkey in the field.
We urge you to take the next step and expand the scope and weight of this forum by formalizing an Association of African Air Forces. Doing so will provide you the opportunity to highlight the role of air forces in national, sub-regional, regional, and continental environments.
Although not an Airman myself, I appreciate that Airpower plays an essential role in defense and an equally important role in development and prosperity. Airpower can expand the reach of legitimate governments and partnering with civil aviation can greatly benefit both the defense industry and the private sector.
Through this Symposium, you will have the opportunity to share your expertise and experience and contribute to productive regional collaborations to confront the challenges of our time. This includes our ability to provide effective support to peacekeeping operations and quickly respond to all manner of humanitarian crises. In many regions across the continent, airpower also includes supporting those on the front lines combating violent extremist organizations.
The United States is proud to partner with you in your endeavors. Together, we can face any challenge and advance our collective security by committing to work together and leveraging each others’ strengths. This Symposium exemplifies this spirit of cooperation.
I offer each of you my heartfelt appreciation for your attendance today and wish you continued success in your great leadership responsibilities. Thank you.