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Face of Defense: Sailor Interprets for African Counterparts

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John Stratton
USS Guston Hall

DAKAR, Senegal, April 27, 2010 – A U.S. sailor born and raised in Togo has found herself back in Africa on a unique mission aboard USS Gunston Hall supporting Africa Partnership Station West.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Chirstelle Byll, right, interprets a lecture on physical security planning to sailors and coast guardsmen from Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Equatorial Guinea during a port security class aboard the USS Gunston Hall, April 13, 2010. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Stratton

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Chirstelle Byll, an operations specialist, moved to Baltimore from her native Togo at age 19 and joined the Navy in December 2005. Currently assigned to USS Stout, she was selected to assist instructors from the Security Force Assistance Detachment of the Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Assistance Training Command, using her native French-speaking skills to interpret the course material for sailors from various French-speaking African nations.

"A friend recommended me," Byll said. "I jumped right on it, knowing it would be a great opportunity to come back to Africa and help out. I went through an instructor school before joining the team. I then had to familiarize myself with the course material that we would be teaching to the African sailors."

Byll interpreted for the port-security and train-the-trainer classes taught by Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerry Mosley that included sailors and coast guardsmen from Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Equatorial Guinea.

"Byll is a great asset to the team," Mosley said. "She brings with her an understanding of the African culture and can also relate to being a U.S. sailor."

Byll agreed that her background is an asset. "I believe the African sailors relate to me a little more than the other instructors," she said. "They feel more comfortable asking me questions if they need help."

Byll added that she hopes the students can take the training and apply it when they return home.

Chief Petty Officer Joseph Ndiaye of the Senegalese navy said he was thrilled to have the African-born U.S. sailor interpret for him.

"I was unaware at first that she was from Togo," he said. "This was a big surprise and a great opportunity, because she knows both cultures."

Byll said she plans to make a career in the Navy, noting she eventually wants to obtain an officer’s commission.

The training being conducted through Africa Partnership Station West is part of an international initiative developed by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa that aims to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. It’s designed to enhance professional development and provide a valuable motivational and instructional experience to increase the awareness of maritime safety and security, officials said.


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