American Forces Press Service
STUTTGART, Germany, June 27, 2012 – An ongoing international effort to help African nations improve maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea represents one of U.S. Africa Command’s most successful programs while embodying the command’s core principles, Africom’s director of strategy, plans and programs reported.
Army Maj. Gen. Charles Hooper called Africa Partnership Station – an initiative that has grown over the past five years to include more than 30 African, European and North and South American countries – a model of international and interagency cooperation.
Participants are working together to develop capacity among countries along the Gulf of Guinea so they can control their territorial waters and crack down on illicit trafficking and other criminal activity.
And what happens at sea matters, not just for Africa, but for the entire world that depends on access to the global commons, Hooper said. He noted the direct link between maritime security, development, prosperity, stability and peace.
“In my mind, African Partnership Station embodies everything that is good and unique about Africa Command,” Hooper said. “Why is it so successful? It’s a unique program that allows us to train, teach and mentor, not only the armed forces of those nations in the Gulf of Guinea, but also some of their law enforcement forces.”
That, Hooper said, makes it “the perfect Africom program.”
“It involves the interagency team, engaging in teaching, coaching, mentoring and building the capacity of our African partners to solve their own problems,” he said.
This directly supports President Barack Obama’s Africa policy and the recognition that has guided Africom since its inception in 2008, he noted. “It is our African partners who are best equipped and best pointed to address African challenges,” Hooper said.
This year’s engagement, the largest yet, kicked off with its first port visit in February in Lagos, Nigeria, and continues through September. The guided missile frigate USS Simpson launched this year’s training program in Lagos, with the crew working with sailors and coast guardsmen from 12 African nations in the first leg of training events.
The high-speed vessel Swift began visiting Africa this spring. Later this summer, USS Fort McHenry will join the Africa Partnership Station mission.
Training events throughout the program, both ashore and at sea, are being tailored to help African maritime nations improve their own capabilities while strengthening their relationships with partner nations. This, officials said, promotes regional cooperation to address common threats, such as piracy and illicit trafficking, and in promoting energy and resource security.
“By working together, African navies and coast guards are able to bring maritime safety and security, which will help secure their future,” said Navy Chief Warrant Officer Eve McAnallen, the Africa Partnership Station training officer.
Commodore Andrew Dacosta, director of training for the Nigerian navy who helped to plan this year’s mission, said African Partnership Station underscores the importance of that effort. “APS has helped us realize the needs for collaboration, cooperation for the collective security of the maritime environment,” he said.
Gabonese Chief Petty Officer Pierre Mboulou welcomed the opportunity to participate in this year’s training.
“I really appreciate the APS program, because it helps us improve and meet our potential through different experiences,” he said. “I hope this program can be held every year and keep going to help African militaries.”
(The U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. 6th Fleet public affairs office contributed to this article.)