STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Army Africa added a small support services battalion on Friday, which Army officials said would help free the command to focus more on its mission on the continent.

With the establishment of a new Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, the Army component of U.S. Africa Command will now be able to provide increased support services to its personnel.

“Standing up a unit is an important step that demonstrates we are actively creating a force capable of carrying out its mission,” said Maj. Gen. David Hogg, USARAF commander, during an activation ceremony in Vicenza, Italy, according to prepared remarks.

“The transformation process may not be fast, but today, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion stand-up reinforces the fact that we, U.S. Army Africa, are moving forward. It’s not happening overnight, but we’re getting there slowly but surely,” said Hogg in a unit news release.

Army officials say the role of the battalion will be primarily supportive. As the command continues to grow, it will need a team to ensure that soldier needs are met, said Lt. Col. David Konop, USARAF spokesman.

The new battalion adds only 13 personnel to the 450-strong U.S. Army Africa team. However, the addition of the unit “basically demonstrates a continued growth in importance of this command,” Konop said. “We can expect more to be happening in the future.”

USARAF was established in 2008 to support Stuttgart-based Africa Command, the military’s youngest combatant command. In recent months, other components also have been busy assigning units to lend more assistance to AFRICOM. A new Marine task force has been assigned to AFRICOM as part of an effort to ramp up training partnerships with militaries fighting al-Qaida-linked groups on the continent. And earlier this year, the Navy commissioned an Africa-focused Naval Special Warfare unit, which is based in Stuttgart.

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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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