CJTF-HOA bids farewell to POLAD
Behind every great leader is a group of great advisors. In order for leaders to be successful, they must surround themselves with subject matter experts to guide them to sound decisions.
The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa has been fortunate to have such a great advisor for political guidance. Cheryl Sim, CJTF-HOA foreign affairs advisor, will be departing on Feb. 27 after seven months of service advising the CJTF-HOA commander on foreign policy issues.
“I first met Cheryl in February 2013, during the Africa Strategic Dialogue Conference at Ramstein Air Base, Germany,” said Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., CJTF-HOA commanding general. “She demonstrated an extensive knowledge of the political and security situation in East Africa. I immediately knew that I had to have her as part of my team.”
As the foreign policy advisor, Sim also serves as a liaison between CJTF-HOA and Department of State and its embassies throughout East and Central Africa. One of her primary responsibilities is to advise the commander on the political and military issues of the countries in CJTF-HOA’s area of operations.
“You kind of work quietly behind the scenes to ensure we are putting our best face forward,” noted Sim. “Whether we are engaging with the African Union or a Troop Contributing Country, we must show that we have an expert level of understanding of the issues in the region.”
The dynamic political climate of East Africa can present multiple challenges to even the most seasoned advisors. Sim came to CJTF-HOA with an extensive list of qualifications. She served as the Counselor for Somalia Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and held various Department of State positions in Somalia, Madagascar, Rwanda and Cote d’Ivoire. As Counselor for Somalia Affairs, she traveled extensively throughout East and Central Africa, building relations in Ethiopia and Uganda. As Maj. Gen. Grigsby likes to say, “Cheryl has already forgotten more about East Africa than the rest of us will ever know.”
Sim provided critical advice on creating a broad-based approach in East Africa. Her counsel and insight were pivotal in changing the structure of the CJTF-HOA mission to include all partner nations.
“One of the things I suggested when I first got here is that we must have a truly regional approach,” said Sim. “We needed to start looking at all of the countries in our area of operations, not just those that contribute troops to Somalia. From my perspective, that was a Somalia approach that acknowledged the contributions by individual TCCs, but it fell short of really developing a complete regional understanding. Hopefully I have broadened our way of looking at the region.”
Sim also played an integral part in establishing dialogue on reforming how the US government funds military assistance programs. The current processes was established more than 50 years ago when the Cold War was the driving force behind foreign policy decisions.
“With coordination with some of my colleagues here at CJTF-HOA, we put down on paper some of the thoughts and recommendations as ways forward for Maj. Gen. Grigsby,” stated Sim. “When he is delivering his speeches to AFRICOM, the African Union, staff talks or comments elsewhere where we talk about how our authorities for funding our military assistance programs were developed during the Cold War. In fact, they are based on the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.”
Sim says the goal is to get the discussion underway and ultimately find a way to modernize the security assistance process to address the current global state of affairs. She acknowledges that creating changes will be a lengthy process, but is encouraged to see other government agencies adopting the language developed by her and her colleagues in CJTF-HOA.
After more than 32 years with the Department of State, Sim will retire when her assignment at CJTF-HOA is completed. It will be a tremendous loss. As the Military Assistant to the Commanding General, Lt Col Matt Dabkowski, put it, “In my 17-year career, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with three people outside of the military that I would consider bona fide experts in their field – Cheryl Sim is one of them.” Although her experience cannot be replaced, Sim has made an effort to pass along her knowledge to the next generation of leaders.
“One of the things I found most enjoyable and where I take quite a bit of pride is working with the younger staff action officers to help them understand the country that they are focused on and to help them see some of the issues that they might otherwise miss,” Sim stated.
After leaving CJTF-HOA, Sim plans to return to her husband Richard, son Greg, and dog Juba in Falls Church, Va.
“I’ll go back to the States and I will see what opportunities are out there,” concluded Sim with a smile. “I may never work again, or I may take up other pursuits.”