Newly promoted admirals hope to learn from past
STUTTGART, Germany — The noise made by the U.S. military in recent years has often been with ear-splitting automatic weapon fire, the grinding of tracked war vehicles and boots kicking in doors.
But the promotions of Europe-based Rear Adms. Richard K. Gallagher and Robert T. Moeller could indicate the Pentagon’s desire to take a more peaceful, partnering tack.
Gallagher and Moeller, who would become vice admirals upon Senate approval, have stated they would use lessons learned from past mistakes as they help organize the new U.S. Africa Command and refocus the U.S. European Command.
“If we can do the nonkinetic [non-war-fighting] things right, then maybe we won’t have to be saying, ‘Gee, how did we get into this situation again?’” said Moeller, who was recently nominated to become the Africa Command’s deputy to the commander for military operations.
“We don’t know things from an African perspective,” said Gallagher, nominated to become the European Command’s deputy commander. “We know from our perspective, which can be flawed.”
The two were speaking in early July at a conference in a Garmisch, Germany, hotel where about 80 people, including at least 10 general-level officers and civilians, hashed over the Africa Command, or AFRICOM.
The attendees had brought with them goals, priorities and mission statements, many of which were promptly readjusted, crossed out or wadded up and tossed into the wastebasket.
For every proclamation by a war fighter who preached about U.S. national interests, there was a rebuttal in the room from an aid worker or like-minded servicemember, even an admiral.
Collaboration, such as that being proposed to help alleviate Africa’s poverty, disease and despotism, has not been one of the Defense Department’s strong suits.
“We don’t do a good job of this because we don’t do a holistic approach,” Gallagher said.
Both Gallagher and Moeller would report to four-star Army generals — Gallagher to Gen. Bantz J. Craddock of the European Command and Moeller to Gen. William E. Ward, nominated to lead AFRICOM.
AFRICOM would fall under the European Command for about one year and then break away to become its own, independent command.
AFRICOM, which is scheduled for its initial stand-up Oct. 1, would organize and coordinate U.S. military efforts on the African continent. But they don’t want the efforts to look military.
“People have preconceived notions of what the military is all about,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robertus Remkes, who led the Garmisch conference. “They just don’t want to see a lot of firepower, and neither do we.”
Gallagher and Moeller indicated that effective “strategic communication” — holding press conferences, talking with influential leaders, sharing information and goals — will be a high priority for the command.
It will have to be, according to one of the conference’s attendees, Dr. (Col.) Victor Folarin, a Nigerian who works for EUCOM’s medical readiness office.
Folarin said he is optimistic about the command but had one fear: “that Africans will see us in a different light, as a projection of unwanted military power.”
“But therein lies the challenge for us, that we come with good intentions,” Folarin said. “The best way to do that is to outline for them what we’re going to do, and do it.”