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STUTTGART, Germany — As U.S. Africa Command continues to grow and refine its mission around the continent, it is developing its program for dealing with the day-to-day needs of its troops and family members.

"We are a unique command with multiple locations, with multiple challenges and multiple levels of quality of life," said Valerie Lubin, chief of AFRICOM’s new quality-of-life team.

No other combatant command has its people so far flung.

From its headquarters in Stuttgart to the Horn of Africa and farther down to the continent’s southern tip, U.S. Africa Command’s personnel are all over.

Some 600 servicemembers and family members are scattered around the continent on various assignments, 220 of whom are school age. Those numbers don’t include the roughly 1,500 troops stationed at AFRICOM’s Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. The command was launched in October of 2008.

Lubin, who recently returned from a trip to Camp Lemonier to assess services, said the key will be to take into account the uniqueness of the new command’s mission. With a mix of military, interagency partners and contractors, the command is more diverse than its combatant command counterparts.

"It’s a unique command. It’s a new command. Those two factors alone make challenges," Lubin said.

In the months ahead, the team will be looking to get a better handle on the needs of the people positioned around Africa. The AFRICOM quality-of-life team will eventually travel to Africa for assessments, Lubin said.

"We can’t really say we’ve identified the gaps in services from Stuttgart," she said. "You have to go out and actually walk the walk and look at the facilities and services."

Some of the big issues aren’t a surprise: Concerns about spotty Internet service, limited access to household goods and education programs are common. Since many people will live in austere environments, much of the current focus is on educating families about what to expect on their assignments around the continent.

AFRICOM’s Family Readiness Group, launched in May, aims to bolster communication among families and educate members about available services.

And following Lubin’s recent to Camp Lemonier in June, it was determined that one new service would be made available to troops with AFRICOM’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

A military family life consultant will be brought on board to supplement other counseling efforts on the base.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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