BANGUI, Central African Republic – A U.S. Army major assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa earned the Common Security and Defence Policy Service Medal for Planning and Support from the European Union Feb. 23, 2019.
Maj. Aaron Testa, who serves as the defense liaison officer to the U.S. Embassy in Bangui, Central African Republic, received the medal from Portuguese Maj. Gen. Hermínio Maio, mission force commander of the European Union Training Mission-Central African Republic, during a ceremony in Bangui.
During his time with the Embassy, Testa fostered relationships with CAR’s minister of defense, chief of defense, military attachés from other foreign missions, senior members of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic and leaders at the EU Training Mission.
“This experience has been life changing,” said Testa, of his time spent in Central African Republic. “The embassy is a small team, and sometimes I was relied upon to do the work of career diplomats.”
Testa was essential in organizing a successful trip for the CAR’s minister of defense, Marie-Noëlle Koyara, to Washington D.C., where she met with officials at the National Security Council, Pentagon and U.S. State Department.
In addition to his regular duties, he established an English language program.
“I was empowered to move projects forward that impact the future peace and security of a nation,” Testa said. “I worked very hard to raise awareness of CAR’s strategic value to Washington and United States Africa Command, but I just moved the ball forward a couple of centimeters at a time. There is still a long way to go.”
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Phillip Emery, deputy director of plans for Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa, remarked that Testa’s dedication was above and beyond the call to normal duty, and his recognition is well earned.
“Maj. Testa volunteered to go to the Central African Republic and embraced all the challenges that entails,” said Emery. “His ‘can-do’ attitude and professionalism built the Central African Republic LNO position from nothing to award-winning.”
With his time at the Embassy coming to an end, Testa noted that the relationships he’s formed have deeply affected him.
“The biggest reward has been the countless number of friends I have made – both Central Africans and others working here from around the world,” Testa said. “I look forward to a future visit to Central African Republic.”