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Black Military Leaders v Africa?

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Note: Thanks to Dr. Carole Simmons of Philadelphia for notice of the article on Admiral Howard.
Rear Admiral Howard area of assignment in African waters (counter-piracy task-force) works in close conjunction with General William E. "Kip" Ward's US/AFRICOM. Ward is also an African American and US/AFRICOM has the responsibility of coordinating all US war-fighting forces and military policy initiatives in Africa.
That African American military leaders (subordinate to the first black commander-in-chief) are assuming more and more leadership roles vis-a-vis Africa is quite interesting and may or may not bode well for overall positive outcomes for the various African states, depending on one's political views of America's history with Africa and its generations old policies of following along with European imperialism, colonialism and racism towards the continent and its peoples, including the 400 year nightmare of African enslavement. If black US military leaders are to be modern "Buffalo Soldiers" (notwithstanding their individual and unit acts of bravery) then much of Africa may be in for a rude awakening much the same as Native American Indians were a century ago when a majority of our black soldiers (many just freed from slavery themselves) eagerly joined with a viciously racist white military establishment and forced Plains and Southwestern Indians into the reservation systems we have today.
Of course, many modern Africans themselves are war-wary having been brutalized by their own native military dictatorships and African warlords time and again (with the generous connivance of ex-colonial European powers --- Britain, France, Netherlands, Belgium especially --- who have a heavy financial stake in keeping Africa divided, weak and at war with itself). It may be that a continental African mission for the US military is seen by some Africans as a way of using outside forces to "stabilize" African regime changes and the constant specter of dictatorial takeovers. Hopefully, "Africa stability" will not always mean a "friendly to US interests regime entrenchment" in order to achieve successes for capitalist financial interests back here in America .
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Thus, on the other hand, it may be that modern black fighting forces can somehow (I don't have an inkling how they would be given that their primary role is to brutalize and destroy, not pamper perceived enemies) prove to be more "humanitarian" and assist in African development and "stability" needs as some are visioning. Comments about US/AFRICOM and the rationale for its mission in Africa from its own web site ( suggests that the public in Africa and back here at home in America are very concerned, but differ as to the nature of Kip Ward's command and mission in Africa. Notice the comments from Nigeria and Liberia (both nations vying for US/AFRICOM headquarters to be locate in their homelands as it moves out of its current location in Germany) as compared to comment from Daniel in the USA and the anonymous Christian person who sniffs hypocrisy in the 19th century white Christian civilizing mission in Africa.
On 4/13/2009 4:25:20 PM, Daniel in USA said:
This comment is in response to anonymous on 3-1-2009. Yes. White men came to Africa and took captives and it was wrong. How can you blame your own people killing each other on this event over 500 years ago? Africa's chaos is caused by internal instability and fighting amongst one another. The problem is, you can't let things go. You have to get even. Americans fought the British and now we work together. I'll probably be accused of racism for even commenting. AFRICOM received 50 million in 2007, 75.5 million in 2008, and is asking for 392 million all for African aid and military security. We aren't here to steal your land, were just trying to help.

On 4/8/2009 8:17:34 PM, Herb in Liberia said:
We applaud former Presidenrt Bush and Defense Secretary Gates for being visionaries in setting up the Africa Command This will bring stability to the continent by minimizing the access of other ill minded foreign entities who have secretly fueled coups and civil unrest due the lack of USA presence in the region, particularly West Africa. This area that is promising for the future—God bless Africa and the United States

On 3/19/2009 1:26:10 AM, joseph in Korea said:
If its real it better be in Nigeria or it will fail

On 3/2/2009 11:43:47 AM, Chris in Nigeria said:
Mine are 2 questions. Kindly reply. How does the military in the African countries fit into this ARICOM program to ensure the security of their states? What are the limitations of the AFRICOM with respect to helping them build their military competences.

On 3/1/2009 3:46:41 PM, Anonymous in Unspecified said:
White man came to our land carrying a bible—told us to close our eyes, pray. By the time we finish our prayers, opened our eyes, the While man ended up having our land—we ended up landless with White man's bible in our hand. Desmond Tutu. Africa fell victim to European scavengers, preaching in the name of God, Christianity civilization, Now, after 500 years of war, genocide, slavery, invasion, occupation, looting of Africa, why would Africans succumb to Africom, playing the same trick all over again? im christain and love god but hate how people in history have abuse his name
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By the way if you are not aware of US military ranking and insignia ... (see wikipedia info): in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, rear admiral (lower half) (RDML) is a one-star flag officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Rear admiral (lower half) ranks above captain and below rear admiral (upper half). Rear admiral (lower half) is equivalent to the rank of brigadier general in the other uniformed services. Kip Ward is a 4 star general, while Michelle Howard has a one star ranking.
Dr. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, (former US Air Force sergeant, national chaplain Vietnam Veteran Against War and member American Legion Post 473, Camden NJ) 
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Rear Adm. Michelle Howard Assumes Command of Counter-Piracy Task Force CTF 151, ESG 2

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News from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet Combined Maritime Forces.

Dispatches from the Front:

Piracy Task Force Welcomes New Commander

USS BOXER, At Sea, April 5, 2009 — Rear Adm. Michelle Howard assumed command of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2 during a ceremony held on board USS Boxer (LHD 4) today and relieved Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, ESG 2’s commander since November 2007.

In addition to relieving McKnight as the ESG 2 commander, Howard assumes command of several U.S. 5th Fleet task forces, including Combined Task Force (CTF) 51 and 59, as well as CTF 151, an international maritime coalition created to disrupt, deter and thwart piracy.

“I’m very fortunate to follow behind Admiral McKnight,” said Howard. “He and the staff have done a terrific job in standing up CTF 151. His leadership will be missed on the waterfront.”

As commander of ESG 2, McKnight was responsible for all of the amphibious assets based on the U.S. East Coast and upon deploying to the U.S. 5th Fleet’s area of operations in January 2009, he assumed command of CTF 151.

McKnight said commanding ESG 2 has been an incredible experience and one he will never forget.

“This has definitely been one of the more exciting assignments of my career,” he said. “Not only did I never think I’d be sailing the ocean chasing pirates, I certainly never thought I’d be doing it alongside the navies of so many different countries, especially Russia and China.”

“My time at ESG 2 has been amazing,” McKnight continued. “In addition to all the exercises and contingencies we were involved with before we deployed, I was privileged enough to have hosted a Great White Fleet event in New York City along with my staff and we also played a big part in the grand re-opening of the Intrepid museum during Veterans Day Weekend 2008. Those two events will certainly remain cherished memories when I look back at my career.”

As the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, Howard said she understands the magnitude of bridging cultural and international gaps.

“ESG 2 has executed the three missions they’re responsible for without missing a beat,” she said. “My top priority right now is to deter piracy here in the Gulf of Aden. I want to continue the extensive international coordination Admiral McKnight started. That’s the true key to defeating piracy. Piracy is a problem that affects all maritime nations and requires an international solution. I’m looking forward to working with naval professionals from around the world on this vital mission.”

CTF 151 is a multinational task force established to conduct counter-piracy operations under a mission-based mandate throughout the CMF area of responsibility to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.

Howard previously served as Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy.

(Report by Lt. John Fage, Expeditionary Strike Group 2 Public Affairs.)

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Rear Admiral Michelle Howard
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2.


Rear Admiral Michelle Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a master's degree in Military Arts and Sciences.

Howard’s initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley (AS 31) and USS Lexington (AVT 16). While serving onboard Lexington, she received the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. She reported to USS Mount Hood (AE 29) as chief engineer in 1990 and served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as first lieutenant onboard the USS Flint (AE 32) in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the executive officer of USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a peacekeeping effort in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. 60 days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African Training Cruise, where the ship’s Sailors, with embarked Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.

She took command of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) on 12 March 1999, becoming the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. Howard was the Commander of Amphibious Squadron 7 from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Persian Gulf.

Her shore assignments include: course coordinator/instructor for the Steam Engineering Officer of the Watch course; action officer and Navy’s liaison to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Military Services in the Bureau of Personnel; Action Officer J-3, Global Operations, Readiness on the Joint Staff from 2001-2003; executive assistant to the Joint Staff Director of Operations from February 2003 to February 2004; and deputy director N3 on the OPNAV Staff from December 2005 to July 2006; deputy director, Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV staff from July 2006 to December 2006.

She was the senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy from January 2007 to January 2009 and currently serves as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2.

Updated: 21 April 2009

Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, Ph.D., Co-Chair
Philadelphia Area Black Radical Congress
Box 1906 Camden, NJ 08101


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Dr. Ibn-Ziyad has demonstrated an abiding concern for racial justice, humanitarian and environmental issues and has been active as a member or leader (1988-present) in the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (Washington, DC), the (more...)

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