USS Fort McHenry Mission to Set Tone for U.S. Africa Command
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2007 USS Fort McHenry is slated to leave Little Creek, Va., tomorrow for a seven-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea that the chief of U.S. Africa Command said will exemplify how his new command will operate.
The amphibious dock landing ship will serve as a platform for the Africa Partnership Station Initiative, which aims to work cooperatively with U.S. and international partners in promoting maritime security in Western Africa, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward told Pentagon reporters.
USS Fort McHenry will sail to Spain to take on passengers from several European partners -- Spain, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Germany, among them -- before heading to the Gulf of Guinea, explained Navy Adm. Henry G. “Harry” Ulrich III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe.
Its full complement will include representatives of U.S. and partner nations’ government agencies and non-governmental organizations, all working together to help African nations increase their ability to provide maritime security.
In addition to the U.S. military, U.S. agencies to participate will be the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Agency for International Development, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Coast Guard, Ulrich said.
High Speed Vessel Swift will join USS Fort McHenry in the Gulf of Guinea, where it will transport students as well as trainers during visits to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe, he said.
Training teams will focus on a broad range of areas, including maritime domain awareness, leadership, seamanship and navigation, maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, civil engineering and logistics.
Support provided will vary between visits, Ward said. He emphasized that the Africa Partnership Station Initiative and AFRICOM as a whole will strive to help African countries build capacity. “Those things that are within our means to do, we look forward in working with the African nations in providing that kind of assistance,” he said.
The new initiative “provides a good example of what the newly established U.S. Africa Command is all about as it relates to helping our partner nations on the continent of Africa build their capacity to better govern their spaces (and) to have more effect in providing for the security of their people,” he said.
In addition, Ward said, the Africa Partnership Station Initiative will help globalize African economies and develop societies for the betterment of their people.
AFRICOM declared itself to have initial operating capability Oct. 1 and began bringing the military’s activities on the continent under its umbrella.
Ward said the command will give a “consolidated focus” to work currently being conducted by three combatant commands: U.S. Central Command, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. European Command.
“As we work over the course of the coming weeks and months to stand up the command, we are focused on building the team that will cause value added to be brought to the various programs we do on the continent,” he said.
Ward said AFRICOM will reinforce efforts under way “by creating a greater synergy of the entirety of the work being done.”