KIGALI, Rwanda -- The African Partnership Flight Rwanda concluded with a closing ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda, March 8, 2019.
Hosted by U.S. Air Forces Africa and the Rwanda Defence Force, the weeklong event allowed 45 air force delegates from Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and Zambia to learn from and share ideas with each other and the U.S. Air Force about their safety programs, particularly flight.
"The African Partnership Flight is (U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa) premiere military-to-military engagement program, and the goal is primarily to build partnerships with various African nations and get them used to working with the United States as well as each other," said Maj. Daniel Stephens, African Partnership Flight Rwanda mission commander.
Throughout the week, participants discussed various aspects of safety investigations, with each country discussing how they conduct them, culminating in a field familiarization exercise with teams investigating a simulated aircraft crash.
Each team was able to walk the scene and examine the damage to try to determine the cause of the aircraft mishap. To add a further step of realism to the scenario, the scene was littered with actual aircraft parts provided by the U.S. Air Force and the Rwanda Defence Force.
"We spent the past four days giving briefs, talking how to conduct a mishap investigation, and today is a culmination of that," said Chief Master Sgt. Joe Winfield, USAFE-AFAFRICA Safety functional manager.
After investigating the scene, each team presented their findings, giving what they believed to be the cause of the crash and recommendations on how to prevent similar future incidents.
"We look at safety as a force multiplier," Winfield said. "It's always 'mission first, safety always.' From any safety incident, you learn to better yourself essentially. So, when we do these mishap investigations, the cause and recommendations lead to better mission enhancement."
To further help the sharing of ideas and cross-communication between the countries, teams consisted of delegates from multiple nations.
"The benefit of that is they don't do a lot of cross-talk," Winfield said. "Having them all in a room and talking about the safety programs they have increased the whole because some nations have a fledgling safety program and some nations have a very robust safety program. Bringing us all together to exchange ideas can bring everybody up."
It is through creating opportunities to work and collaborate together that the African Partnership Flight program aims to build aviation capacity, enhance regional cooperation, and increase interoperability.
"I enjoyed the interactions with other countries, learning how they do (safety) in their home (countries) and them learning from us how we operate about air safety," said Rwanda Air Force Lt. Fernand Ruzigana. "That was the best experience throughout this week.
"To the other countries that participated in this forum and the United States, we are honored to have hosted this event and hope, next time, to be invited to (future events)," Ruzigana added. "As we go on, we would like to have more cooperation with them but also with the U.S. Air Force."