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U.S., Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan troops will conduct their first joint exercise in six years, kicking off 10 days of field training next week, officials said.

The exercise, dubbed Natural Fire, will include some 1,000 troops from the four countries and is a centerpiece of the anti-terrorism mission of the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

The training will begin Tuesday and will focus on “crisis response, military-to-military training and humanitarian events that include medical, veterinary and engineering civic assistance projects,” according to a military news release this week.

The exercise will be commanded by a Kenyan general, who will have an exercise staff of officers from all the participating nations.

“Natural Fire exemplifies the commitment between [East African Community] nations and the U.S. It serves to underpin our cooperative investment in the long-term stability of the region,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Richard Hunt, CJTF-HOA commander.

“In addition to the field training events, the humanitarian projects will provide critical medical supplies, engineering support and services in rural regions of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.”

U.S. military officials call the Horn of Africa mission one of avoidance and pre-emption — keeping a low profile, providing small-scale community projects and training local militaries. The task force was formed in late 2002 and has operated from Camp Lemonier in Djibouti since May 2003. Its area of responsibility includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, the Seychelles, Sudan, Yemen and, technically, Somalia.

The task force includes some 1,500 military and civilian personnel working in an area covering more than 2 million square miles, with more than three times the population of Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

According to CJTF-HOA’s guiding documents, the mission is “waging peace. ... Our combat troops are doctors, nurses, veterinarians, civil engineers, well-drillers.”

Last month, officials announced a planned expansion of Camp Lemonier, both for more security and more housing area for troops assigned there. The camp will expand from 88 acres to nearly 500 under a new five-year lease.

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