Coast Guard Cutter Supports Africa Partnership Station
By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2008 The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas has been deployed for two months to support the Africa Partnership Station as part of the U.S. Global Fleet Station Initiative, the ship’s commanding officer said today.
Coast Guard Capt. Robert P. Wagner told online journalists and bloggers that the Dallas crew has operated with the navies and coast guards of countries in western and central Africa.
“We’ve done a little bit of the gamut from some of the basic training, to working with our counterparts in Cape Verde for an actual law enforcement operation in which we spent 10 days patrolling Cape Verde’s exclusive economic zone with a law enforcement detachment of the Cape Verde coast guard aboard,” Wagner said.
“This was the first time that a foreign law enforcement [unit] has been deployed from a U.S. military ship to exercise another nation’s sovereignty over their waters,” he said.
Wagner credited part of the partnership’s success to cultural awareness training.
“When we come over here, we certainly want to be making friends,” he said. “We can’t make friends if we’re offending them or doing something that runs counter to their culture.”
Thanks to the training, Wagner said, the Dallas crew knew what to expect. “It’s not unusual to see two men walking hand in hand,” he said. “If your folks are reacting improperly to that, then you’re not going to be able to work effectively with our host nation guests.”
Wagner said the main objectives for the Dallas as part of APS are to enhance community relations among nations and elevate cultural awareness.
“Community relations projects are ways to interact with future leaders, and basically at an early age expose them to Americans,” Wagner said. “And maybe they’ll remember that, ‘When I was 10 years old or 12 years old, the Americans came to my school.’ And maybe that’s a lasting impression that will carry on as they take on more responsibilities throughout their life.”
Dallas crew members recently spent a day painting a school in Ghana, Wagner noted. “It was rewarding for our folks to be able to go out there and give a little bit to the community,” he said.
While supporting APS, the Dallas crew has provided training in maritime law enforcement, search and seizure, search and rescue, and migrant interdiction.
“The number(s) of threats that these countries face, … these are all things that the Coast Guard does in its missions on a daily basis,” Wagner explained. “They have very similar challenges for maritime security as the United States.”
Wagner said the Dallas has been deployed from its Charleston, S.C., home station for almost 75 days, but the crew’s morale is amazing.
“I’ve never seen morale so high in all my life,” he said. “I just have a fantastic crew. They’ve been tested, and they just do a fantastic job, so I couldn’t be more proud to be sailing with these folks.”
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)