By Lt. j.g. Dino Teppara
Rear Adm. Shawn E. Duane, vice commander of U.S. Sixth Fleet, engaged with naval leaders in Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Liberia during exercise Obangame Express 2018.
“The inclusion of Mount Whitney in Obangame Express provided a fantastic opportunity to expand the scope of high-level engagements with our West African partners,” said Duane. “From this platform, we were able visit and engage in constructive dialogue with senior leaders from three additional Gulf of Guinea nations en route to the senior leader symposium in Libreville, Gabon. The Obangame Express series has long served as our flagship exercise in West Africa and is designed to deepen relationships, enhance regional cooperation, and synchronize efforts toward the mutual goal of regional security in the Gulf of Guinea.”
In addition to the Sailors aboard the Mount Whitney, more than 200 U.S. service members supported this exercise across 14 Gulf of Guinea nations.
“We’re developing lifelong partnerships in an important part of the world, and that’s something that every service member participating in Obangame Express can truly be proud of,” said Duane.
In Dakar, Duane toured the maritime operations center based in Senegal’s capital city, out of which 10 countries operated from during the exercise. As one of the most capable partners in the region, the Senegalese navy also hosted more than 40 exercise participants from neighboring countries for training in port and at sea. Duane was hosted by Rear Adm. Momar Diagne, chief of navy staff for Senegal, and was able to express appreciation for this highly-valued relationship.
In Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, Duane was welcomed by Commodore Sal Kanu, the maritime wing commander for the Royal Sierra Leone Armed Forces. Duane toured the maritime joint operations center and met with Maria Brewer, U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, at the embassy. He also discussed the future of security cooperation to include sponsored engagements between Sierra Leone and its immediate neighbors, Guinea and Liberia.
Before returning to the Mount Whitney, Duane hosted a luncheon with several senior government officials, including Maj. Gen. David Taluva, Sierra Leone’s deputy chief of defense staff.
In the final stop, Duane visited Monrovia, Liberia. After a productive meeting with U.S. Ambassador Christine Elder, he was escorted around the coast guard base by Maj. Gen. Prince Charles Johnson III, chief of staff for the Armed Forces of Liberia.
“The engagement concluded with an enthusiastic round table discussion with the various maritime stakeholders,” said Duane. “Liberia has a long history of bilateral security cooperation and this visit served as a great opportunity to observe the encouraging progress achieved in recent years.”
The overall goals of Obangame Express are to provide participating maritime forces the opportunity to work together and share information, as well as refine tactics, techniques, and procedures in order to assist Gulf of Guinea nations with monitoring their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. The exercise took place March 21-29 and culminated with the senior leader symposium in Libreville, Gabon in which Heads of Navy met and discussed common goals and strategies for regional maritime security.