Telephonic Press Briefing with U.S. Ambassador to Niger Eric P. Whitaker and Major General J. Marcus Hicks, Commander, Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) to discuss the upcoming SOCAF-Sponsored Flintlock 2018 Joint Military Exercise in Niger

Briefing on April 5, Flintlock 2018 Exercise in Niger 

NIAMEY, Niger, April 5, 2018,-/Africcan Media Agency (AMA)/-
Please join us on Thursday, April 5, 2018, at 13:30 GMT|14:30 WAT|15:30 SAST for a telephonic press briefing with Eric Whitaker, U.S. Ambassador to Niger, and Major General J. Marcus Hicks, Commander, Special Operations Command Africa. They will discuss our multiform efforts to reinforce development, security, and diplomatic efforts in Niger, including the Flintlock program.

Niger has become increasingly vulnerable to the fragile security situation in the Sahel and ongoing humanitarian threats such as food insecurity. The United States Government is contributing to Niger’s development and providing humanitarian assistance while strengthening the capacity of its security and defense forces. We remain committed to our longstanding Nigerien partners in promoting a safer Sahelian region. The annual Flintlock exercise is just one way that we help develop the capacity of and collaboration among Trans–Saharan security forces in their efforts to protect civilian populations. Niger previously hosted Flintlock in 2014 and will host again 9-20 April 2018.


During the briefing, Ambassador Whitaker and Major General Hicks will discuss the U.S.-Niger bilateral relationship, including development and diplomatic efforts, and the United States’ role in building the security and defense forces’ capacity to strengthen Niger’s ability to manage terrorist threats. Special attention will be given to the evolution and importance of the annual Flintlock Exercise.

Speakers: U.S. Ambassador to Niger Eric P. Whitaker and Major General J. Marcus Hicks, Commander, Special Operations Command Africa
Date: April 05, 2018
Time: 13:30 GMT|14:30 WAT| 15:30 SAST
* Please use Time Zone Converter to determine the start time of the event in your time zone.
Language: English. French and Portuguese interpretation will be offered.
Ground rules: On the record.
Dial-in Info: To be provided once you RSVP.
Twitter: We will use the hashtag #AFHubPress as the hashtag for the call. Follow us on @AfricaMediaHub and at @USAfricaCommand.


Callers should dial-in to the conference call 10-15 minutes early.
When an individual journalist dials-in, the operator will collect the caller’s name, press affiliation, and location. When an embassy dials in, the operator will ask the embassy’s name and location.
The moderator will facilitate the Q and A among the connected callers. Journalists on the conference call will be instructed to press the “*” and “1” buttons on their phones in order to enter the question queue. NOTE: You can press “*1” at any time during the call to join the question queue, even before the moderator begins the Q and A portion. We ask that journalists limit themselves to one question and indicate to which speaker the question is directed.
Journalists can also submit questions in English to prior to or during the call.
U.S. Ambassador to Niger Eric P. Whitaker

The Deputy Secretary of State for the United States administered the oath of office to Eric Whitaker in a December 15, 2017 ceremony at the Department. Ambassador Whitaker is a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service with 27 years of experience. Ambassador Whitaker joined the Bureau of African Affairs Front Office as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in January 2017 with East African Affairs, Sudan, and South Sudan portfolios. His previous position was Director of East African Affairs.

From October 2012-2014, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy N’Djamena, Chad, before returning to the Department of State. Prior to that, he served as Foreign Policy Advisor (POLAD) to the U.S. military in Djibouti, and as Counselor for Economic Affairs at Embassy Nairobi, Kenya. From 2008-2010, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission and then as Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger. Ambassador Whitaker also served as an Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (E-PRT) Leader in Baghdad, Iraq, heading an eight-member team composed of State, USAID, and DoD civilians.

Ambassador Whitaker has a BS in biology and an MS in community health education from the University of Illinois, a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Public Policy degree from the Wilson School at Princeton University. Prior to the Foreign Service, he served as a Community Health Development Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines and as Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Lodi, California.

Ambassador Whitaker speaks Portuguese, Spanish, French, Visayan, and Korean, and has received eleven Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, as well as the Department of Defense Meritorious Civilian Honor Award.

Major General J. Marcus Hicks
Major General J. Marcus Hicks is the Commander, Special Operations Command Africa, headquartered at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. In this role, Maj Gen Hicks is responsible for the full spectrum of special operations activities conducted throughout Africa. Prior to this assignment, Maj Gen Hicks served as the Chief of Staff, Headquarters, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

Maj Gen Hicks received his commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at the Virginia Military Institute in 1986. His operational flying experience includes special operations assignments in the AC-130H and AC-130U. He has commanded the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, the Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, and the 14th Weapons Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Maj Gen Hicks previously served in staff assignments at Headquarters U.S. Special Operations Command, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. His Pentagon assignments include operations directorates of Headquarters U.S. Air Force and the Joint Staff.

Maj Gen Hicks holds a Master of Military Arts and Sciences, Army Command and Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and a Master of Aerospace Arts and Sciences, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. He was also a National Defense Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C. and Senior Executive Fellow, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
A command pilot, General Hicks has more than 3,000 flying hours.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Africa Regional Media Hub.

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