STUTTGART, Germany — If Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward is confirmed by the Senate as commander of the U.S. military’s new Africa Command, he will inherit a half-built ship based on an evolving idea.

Ward, currently deputy commander of U.S. European Command, would assume control of the military’s first command of its kind, one that aims to use its assets for humanitarian efforts as much as military ones.

This week, 10 general officers and high-level civilians were among 80 people at a conference in Garmisch, Germany, who debated the shape and challenges of the command, known as AFRICOM, even as the announcement of Ward’s nomination was being prepared by the Pentagon.

The command, currently based in Stuttgart, has scheduled its initial stand-up for Oct. 1.

“It’s been really useful to take a few days to step back and open up the aperture,” said Rear Adm. Robert T. Moeller, director of the AFRICOM Transition Team, on Tuesday during the conference’s closing remarks.

The command was announced in February, and its transition team, which started with about 40 people in a building on Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, has been mowing through the to-do lists.

AFRICOM is expected to employ between 400 and 1,000 members by the time it is fully operational, which is scheduled for October 2008.

The staff would not be combat troops, and some might not be based on the continent but back in Washington or elsewhere.

The staff is expected to comprise active-duty military and Defense Department civilians, as well as employees from the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, plus perhaps liaisons to nongovernmental organizations and even people from other nations.

The transition team also has been weighing ideas for its future headquarters and where it would be located.

One option being considered is a spoke-and-wheel concept, according to Brig. Gen. Jeffery E. Marshall of EUCOM’s strategy, policy and assessment’s directorate.

In it, AFRICOM would have a main headquarters with several satellite offices on the continent.

“We’re still looking at the best headquarters structure to engage the African Union and other regional organizations,” Marshall said.

A media campaign is being considered to win support as well as quell suspicions percolating on the continent since the command was announced.

Ward was en route on Wednesday from Washington to South Africa, and Stars and Stripes was unable to reach him for comment.

Brett Schaefer, a fellow at the conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation, said Ward’s experience made him a natural nominee.

“He has dealt quite extensively with African countries,” Schafer said.

“He was stationed in Somalia (as commander of 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division during Operation Restore Hope.)”

Ward graduated from Morgan State University’s ROTC program and joined the military in 1971.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Morgan State, and his master’s degree from the Pennsylvania State University.

Ward has held a number of overseas and staff posts, and served as commander of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division in Somalia.

He later was the commander of the stabilization force in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2000.

He became the fifth black man to be promoted to the rank of full general when he received his fourth star in May 2006.

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