Partnership Mission Shows U.S. Commitment to Africa, Commander Says
By Navy Lt. Patrick Foughty
Special to American Forces Press Service
NAPLES, Italy, Mar. 12, 2009 The USS Robert G. Bradley has completed the first Africa Partnership Station mission to East Africa, signifying the U.S. commitment to helping African nations achieve stability and prosperity, the APS East Africa commander said.
Africa Partnership Station -- an international initiative – is a U.S.-led response to requests by African nations for military-to-military or civilian-military maritime training.
Navy Capt. Nick Holman led the mission to Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania, and explained the growing initiative and its impact in Africa to bloggers and online journalists yesterday during a “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable
“Africa Partnership Station responds to [East] African requests for training by providing a delivery vehicle for international, interagency and nongovernmental organization assistance,” Holman said. “The U.S. government and our Navy are committed to helping all African nations and regions achieve stability and economic prosperity, and East Africa is looking for help.”
Africa Partnership Station began in fall 2007 with the deployment of USS Fort McHenry to West Africa. The ship included an international staff and acted as a floating schoolhouse, offering a variety of maritime courses and training. The initiative has continued with deployments of other Navy and Coast Guard ships, aircraft and small training units. The USS Nashville is in the Gulf of Guinea on a similar large-scale APS mission.
“APS brings to a country a team of maritime experts,” Holman said, “be it through Navy sailors on a frigate like Bradley, or a team of Seabees working a community-relations project such as a school or clinic, or … what's found now on APS Nashville currently on the west coast of Africa -- which is a large international team including European, African and South American personnel.”
Training is conducted using the ship’s crew as instructors and covers subjects such as small boat operations, navigation, damage control and visit, and board, search and seizure procedures.
Holman discussed the maritime security threats that East African countries are facing, most importantly that of illegal fishing. “Illegal fishing, at a billion-dollar [per year] loss to Africa, with an estimated $310 million loss on East Africa alone, has a negative impact on the economic stability and prosperity of each of the countries affected,” Holman said. “Drugs, arms, human trafficking and other criminal activities are ongoing.”
Many African countries have new or developing navies that are not yet trained or equipped to enforce the law in their maritime environment, Holman noted.
“The countries we visited do have some capability,” he said, “but it's not what you would consider a typical navy or typical military in having the capacity, the training and the wherewithal to go out through the oceans and search for illegal activity right now.”
A frigate is a great platform to showcase, Holman said, because as the African navies grow, ships like frigates may be what they will grow into.
“When you show up with a brand-new DDG [Navy destroyer] like a Forrest Sherman, a billion-dollar ship, they know that's way out of their reach,” he said. “Frigates can go into places that some can't, and the perspective from the military is … we're a smaller navy, and this is something maybe we can see in our future.”
The frigate also brings a small crew and an intimate training environment more conducive to small-group, hands-on training, he added.
Holman emphasized the importance and value of Africa Partnership Station.
“We can show up, provide training, provide resources, and then leave very little footprint behind. And they're looking for our help,” Holman said. “APS is an enduring mission. And only through continuous presence and interaction with the people we meet will this partnership-building program and maritime safety and security program succeed.”
(Navy Lt. Patrick Foughty serves with the U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa, U.S. 6th Fleet public affairs office.)