By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams
Returning home is a special event for any service member. Weeks, months, and even years go by before some of our armed force members can make it back home. It usually means time off of work, relaxation, and catching up with friends and family. For Lt. Lynda Amegee, her return to the Gulf of Guinea is anything but.
Amegee, a supply officer assigned to Allied Joint Forces Command, Naples, is embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), which is deployed to the Gulf of Guinea in support of its 2019 Africa Partnership Station (APS) deployment.
Originally born in Lomé, Togo, Amegee moved to the United States when she was 29 years old. She had difficulty finding a job, as she did not know any English.
She was able to find work first in retail and then as a full-time nanny, where she became infatuated with the television show “JAG.”
“For me, coming to America was a chance to make a name for myself,” said Amegee. “The first time I saw ‘JAG’ I knew I wanted to wear the Navy uniform.”
Amegee set off to meet with a recruiter, determined to join the Navy; however, she was initially denied because of her status as a single mother.
“I had aunt living in Mississippi, so I took my son there,” said Amegee. “We went to the courthouse, and I gave her legal custody of him,” said Amegee. “The whole process took about two months, and then I returned to the same recruiter. When he saw me, I could see the surprise on his face. He told me he never expected to see me again. I told him ‘I came here for you; you didn’t come looking for me!’”
In October 2000, she enlisted in the Navy. It has been 25 years since her last visit to Senegal, and she is back with the U.S. Navy, serving both the U.S. and the Gulf of Guinea coastal nations.
Amegee is elated for the opportunity to return to West Africa.
“It’s been so good to build on [my previous] memories [in Africa], especially to be a part of the things we are doing here,” said Amegee. “This mission is absolutely wonderful for the locals, the navies, the kids, and community relations. It’s just been the best thing ever!”
Before moving to the U.S., Amegee also lived in Dakar, Senegal, and Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, both of which are port visits during the ship’s deployment in the region. For her, the return to Senegal is something akin to a homecoming.
“Speaking with the Senegalese people, they are just so embracing and happy that we are here doing what we do,” said Amegee. “When they hear I am from the region, it just opens so many doors. You can see the appreciation on their face. It’s something an electronic translator could never do. You really get to know the people, and doing so helps make the mission more efficient.”
Amegee is providing vital translation services as a native French speaker, ensuring communications between the country team service members and those embarked aboard Carson City are able to accomplish the mission and intent of the APS deployment.
APS is U.S. Naval Forces Africa’s flagship maritime security cooperation program focusing on maritime safety and security through increased maritime awareness, response capabilities, and infrastructure. It consists of the various exercises and operations conducted by U.S., European, and African partners and allies throughout the U.S. Africa Command area of operations.
An engineering team embarked on Carson City was working alongside Senegalese service members while the group was performing maintenance on Senegalese patrol craft, but they were running into communication problems and asked Amegee to help translate.
“While the team was doing the maintenance, I was able to help translate between them and the Senegalese,” said Amegee. “To be a part of it and facilitate communication, it was like ‘Wow, I’m finally putting my French to work!’ The Senegalese crew was amazed to find out I could speak some of the local dialect. When they found out, they embraced me as one of their own; I could feel the connection. It helped both teams become more comfortable, and I really think it helped the work get done faster.”
Amegee’s return to her first home has given her a newfound motivation to move back to the region when she finishes her service. She said she feels like her presence is a sign of hope and progress for the people in the West African region.
“They were proud to see an African woman have an important role in the U.S. Navy,” said Amegee. “One person came to me and said I was a representation of them, which made me feel really good.”
Amegee is one of many U.S. Sailors from the West African regions. These Sailors and their service to both countries are great examples of the United States’ commitment to regional collaboration and a maintaining a prosperous relationship throughout Africa.
Working together with partner nations allows all parties to achieve long-lasting solutions to common challenges, and for those like Amegee, it provides an opportunity to bridge the gap and serve both home fronts.
Carson City is deployed to the Gulf of Guinea to demonstrate progress through partnerships and U.S. commitment to West African countries through small boat maintenance assistance, maritime law enforcement engagement, and medical and community relations outreach.
U.S. 6th Fleet conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, to advance U.S. national interests, security and stability in Europe and Africa.