By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
U.S. Coast Guard cutter (USCGC) Thetis (WMEC 910) departed U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-CNA) area of operations (AOO), following the cutter’s three-month deployment to the region, May 15, 2019.
While in the Gulf of Guinea, Thetis participated in numerous operations and joint exercises exercise to include Obangame Express (OE19) and Operation Junction Rain (OJR), which are part of the larger Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP).
“Our partner nations in West Africa face many challenges to maritime security including illegal fishing, illicit narcotics trafficking, and piracy,” said Cmdr. Randall Chong, Thetis’ commanding officer. “By conducting joint maritime law enforcement operations, we were able to establish best practices providing their navies and coast guards with the tools to enforce their laws and secure their maritime domains. The U.S. Coast Guard’s involvement in [AMLEP] has had a positive impact on the region, and I am proud of all the hard work my crew has put into this mission.”
OE19 was hosted by Nigeria, with this year’s iteration being the first time a USCGC participated in the exercise. Thetis also hosted a reception at the closing of the exercise in Lagos. During OE19, participating nations from around the Gulf of Guinea, Europe, and North and South America conducted joint training evolutions focused on enhancing cooperation and expertise in maritime law enforcement, which included boarding tactics and techniques to assist African partner nations in the Gulf of Guinea in combatting illegal fishing, trafficking of humans and narcotics, maritime piracy, and environmental pollution.
Following OE19, Thetis completed a series of quadrilateral engagements with the Saõ Tomé and Principe Coast Guard and the Portuguese and Brazilian navies. The four nations conducted multiple events including classroom and hands-on training on law enforcement, mission planning, operations, and engineering maintenance. Skills such as these have specifically been requested by African partner nations during events such as the Africa Combined Maritime Force Component Command (CFMCC) course hosted by U.S. 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy, in December 2018.
Thetis’ crew, being part of the USCG, has a unique skill set and specialize in maritime law enforcement operations such as counternarcotics and human smuggling missions. Their three-month deployment to Africa’s Gulf of Guinea region was a chance for them to share their expertise with African maritime nations while also learning from their counterparts.
“This is United States experts working with African security forces to help enforce their laws in their waters and provide them with the tools and training to help them succeed, while also providing our teams the ability to learn from our African partners,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, CNE-CNA and commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples.
Thetis participated in OJR, which included joint law enforcement operations with first the Nigerian Navy and then the Cabo Verdean Coast Guard in the Gulf of Guinea. The cutter’s crew members assisted the maritime forces of African partner nations in conducting real-world operations in their territorial waters and economic exclusion zones.
“We worked alongside our maritime partners in the Gulf of Guinea to combat illicit activity and improve regional stability,” said Chong. “These countries' economies are intertwined with their ability to enforce their laws and secure their maritime domains.”
Thetis encountered real world events during deployment, where quick actions helped save lives including a rescue-at-sea of two fisherman from Sierra Leone who had been lost at sea for three days and were presumed dead. They also rescued two loggerhead sea turtles who were tangled in a commercial fishing net.
The cutter’s deployment also included a port visit to Mindelo, Cabo Verde, where the crew hosted tours for Cabo Verde senior leadership, Minister of Maritime Economy for Cabo Verde, and the acting US Ambassador, Chargee d’Affaires to Cabo Verde. Thetis completed two additional port visits to Cote d’Ivoire and Saõ Tomé and Principe.
“This patrol has been a unique and rewarding experience for myself and my crew,” said Chong. “We had the opportunity to strengthen our partnerships with navies and coast guards throughout West Africa as we worked together to confront the many threats to maritime security.”
Thetis, a 270-foot famous-class medium endurance cutter homeported in Key West, Florida is the first Coast Guard cutter to support and deploy to U.S. Africa Command and U.S. 6th Fleet since 2011.
CNE-CNA/U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered 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 and security and stability in Europe and Africa.