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By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa-U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC 910) joined maritime forces from 33 nations to include Gulf of Guinea, Europe, North America, and the United States and several regional and international organizations in the multinational maritime exercise Obangame Express (OE19), March 15-21, 2019.
OE19 is a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) exercise designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness (MDA), information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
During the exercise, Thetis simulated training with participating nations on maritime law enforcement to include boarding tactics and techniques to assist them in combatting illegal fishing, tracking of humans and narcotics, maritime piracy, and environmental pollution.
“My crew and I enjoyed the opportunity to work with our African counterparts participating in Obangame Express,” said Cmdr. Randall Chong, Thetis’ commanding officer. “It is our responsibility to secure our maritime domains by working together to ensure our maritime commerce industries are safe and secure so our economies can prosper.”
Thetis conducted a scheduled port visit in Lagos, Nigeria, and hosted a shipboard reception for OE19, March 21. The port visit reinforced the strengthening ties between the United States and Nigeria, and the reception enabled leadership to build relationships.
“We had an outstanding time during our visit to Lagos,” said Chong. “As we continue to build and strengthen our relationship with the Nigerian Navy and our other African counterparts, we will conduct joint exercises, sharing best practices to improve overall coordination with our allies and foreign military partners.”
African participants chose “obangame” as the name for the exercise, which means “togetherness” in Fang, a commonly spoken West African language, during the planning stages for the first Obangame Express in 2010.
Obangame Express is one of three annual U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa facilitated regional exercises and is part of a comprehensive strategy by U.S. 6th Fleet and AFRICOM to provide collaborative opportunities among African forces and international partners to address maritime security concerns.
Thetis is a 270-foot Famous Class Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Key West, Florida specializing in maritime law enforcement operations, specifically counter-narcotics and alien migrant smuggling, and search and rescue operations.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquarted in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, security and stability in Europe and Africa.